Social Acceptance of Stay at Home Dads Has a Way to Go

With any major societal change, people need to adapt and accept the shifts in our culture.  Just like in technology, cultural change has roughly four levels: The Early Adopters – those who embrace the change immediately, the Moderates – those who are interested but wait until the change has some acceptance, the Skeptics– those who wait until everyone else has accepted the change and through peer pressure, are OK with it but not necessarily in favor of it, and Rebels – Those who will likely never accept the change and tend to spread stereotypes and negativity.

With all of the major changes going on in the US over the past two decades from same sex marriages and families, women beginning to break through the glass ceiling with more holding executive positions in major corporations and approaching equal pay to men, immigration guiding a shift toward a multi-lingual culture, and the social media phenomenon of technology like Facebook and Twitter, the US is in a firestorm of social, cultural and economic change.

So, enter the stay-at-home dad.  According to the 2010 US Census Bureau Report there was only a scant 154,000 stay at home dads in the US in 2009 or approximately 2.7% of the country’s stay at home parents.  It doesn’t sound like much, but that is triple the number 10 years ago!

As more women begin making the same or more than men for equal jobs, the “who will stay home” decision becomes more complex.  The first decision is do you both work and send your child to daycare.  That was not for us.  So the next decision was, who stays home?  Though my wife and I were both in well paying professions, she was making significantly more than me, so here I am.  A stay at home dad of 5 years and loving it!  Now that my son is in school now, it allows me to pick up some consulting jobs and add a smidgen to our income.

It’s been an eye opener and learning experience over the past 5 years, not just from the standpoint of raising a child but also from a social and cultural point of view.  I now know what it is like to be a minority.  From early on being told by a local “mommy and baby” play group that I was not allowed to join (since, and I quote, “We would not be comfortable with a man in the group since we discuss women issues and men…”) to literally being ignored when trying to have a conversation at the playground with a group of moms.  I thought these groups were for the benefit of the kids with a side of social activity for parents – apparently it was the other way around.  Then there were the comments while shopping – “Oh, how nice, is daddy giving mommy a little break today?”, “Awe, a little daddy, son bonding time”, “pulling a little daddy duty today?”.  At first, such comments didn’t bother me until I started answering them with, “actually, I am a stay at home dad, so I am with my son all of the time.”  Then, the look.  Like a deer in the headlights.  It seemed to be incomprehensible.  This was usually followed by a comment like “oh, how nice.” or “that’s interesting.”

So, four year later, I finally met a group of stay at home moms who saw me as no different than them.  It was refreshing.  I was included in conversations, invited to play groups, birthdays and was a consideration in when and what time we should sign our kids up for the next session of soccer.

There is progress being made in the stay at home dad profession.  My new found mom friends could be considered “early adopters” which will soon be followed by “moderates” once there is a further increase in stay at home dads.  For now, I will press on, join the parent groups at school, volunteer for field trips and story time, be a soccer/swim dad, run errands, plan meals, cook, clean, do laundry, manage the budget and pay bills, make repairs around the house and continue to love my job.  My title?  CDO – Chief Domestic Officer.