The recent influx of stay-at-home dads is creating a new model for the modern family. The stay-at-home dad is a more involved partner for his wife and a more involved parent for his children. His presence provides a level of comfort and protection for the family, and many men seem to enjoy staying at home and find pleasure in parenting their children and caring for the home. It can be a respite from the pressures of the working world and the bleak job market. Their contributions to the home and family in this new capacity are priceless.
At a time when fathers are known to be absent from the home because of long hours on the job, separation, divorce, work or military duty, it is a plus to have a man around the house. A father who is physically and emotionally available builds better relationships with his children — and with his wife.
Brett, a stay-at-home dad from Queens, says he enjoys taking care of his daughter Ava full-time, because it is a relief from the pressures of his previous job in finance. He decided to stay at home, because his experience trying to find a job was disheartening, and the family needed to save the monthly $2,000 they paid for childcare.
But he is happy to be a stay-at-home dad, because he and Ava are bonding more than they would have under other circumstances. Ava is confident that he is there for her when she needs him, and even feels special that she is the only child at her nursery school who is not picked up by a mother or nanny.
“Brett can handle any situation that comes up with Ava and doesn’t have to consult with me before making decisions, the way a babysitter normally would,” says his wife, Marie.
Marie appreciates having Brett at home because she can focus at work with few interruptions. With Brett keeping things running smoothly, she knows that their “love bank” is full.
Although men may need time to develop the skill set it takes to keep a home and care for the family, they can learn how to do it in their own way, and often enjoy doing so. There is a learning curve to preparing children for school in the morning and getting a meal on the table in the evening, but fathers can be innovative in performing each task and their results may help their children in the long run.
Danielle, a first-grade teacher in Brooklyn, can always tell when fathers dress kids for school, especially when it comes to girls’ hairstyles. One of her students, Jenn, would have her hair in neat parts with bows, beads or ribbons, thanks to her mom. Other days, she would arrive with bows, ribbons and multiple ponytails all at once, which meant her dad had let her do the styling herself. Regardless of how her hair was fashioned, Jenn was confident in her appearance, and Danielle thinks it was because father and daughter worked on creating a masterpiece together.
Some fathers choose to stay at home, because they don’t want to miss a minute of their children growing up.
“It is important to put first things first, and the children come first,” says David, who stays at his home in the Bronx. “Their personalities change and grow so quickly that you have to be there while they’re young, or you’ll miss it. Once they get to high school and college, they naturally pull away. Get as many moments as you can while they’re young.”
He says that he is not the best cook, but he is the best interactive listener and homework helper. As far as he is concerned, the quality time with his kids is more important than feeding them gourmet meals.
A stay-at-home dad is not only good for the kids, but can be good for his wife as well. Men can become much more involved in the communication aspect of the relationship when their focus is shifted from the workplace, leading to a renewed intimacy that is good for both partners.
A dad staying at home is not a feminization of the male, but rather a chance for the man to bring his special touch to what was formerly considered a woman’s world. A man who understands what it takes to run a home and take care of kids can make both partners feel better appreciated, and leave more time for both of them to build on their relationship.
Candi Sparks is the author of the “Can I Have Some Money?” book series. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook as Candi Sparks (writer).