Stay-at-Home Dad or Stay-at-Home Mom?In the past the man was the one with the career. As a matter of fact, a woman sometimes left work as soon as she got married. Now both partners usually work prior to having children and the woman usually has as much vested in her career as does her husband. While some people feel that a woman can better take care of a child, there are real life examples that blow this theory right out of the water. Fathers can certainly be as nurturing as mothers. So, if you can put away traditional role models of women as caregivers and men as bread winners, you can make this decision in a logical way.
Here are some questions you and your partner need to consider:
- Which parent earns more money?
- Who has the better health insurance policy?
- Who stands to lose more by taking time off from his or her career?
- Can either parent switch to part time or a more flexible schedule?
- Can either parent work from home?
After answering those questions and any others that may be pertinent to your particular situation, you can make an educated decision. The one you make may surprise you. You may in fact decide that it makes more sense for the father to be the primary caregiver -— a stay-at-home dad.
Avoiding Loneliness As a Stay-at-Home DadGo to a playground on a weekday morning and take a look around. How many fathers do you see? Probably not many. According to a U.S. Bureau of the Census report released in May 2006, there were 143,000 stay-at-home dads versus 5.6 million stay-at-home moms in 2005 ("Americans Marrying Older, Living Alone More, See Households Shrinking" U.S. Census Bureau, May 25, 2006). However, the number of stay-at-home dads has been increasing. In 2003, there were 98,000 stay-at-home dads out of a total of 5.5 million stay-at-home parents ("Stay-at-Home Parents Top 5 Million" U.S. Census Bureau, November 30, 2004).
Because of their low number, fathers who stay at home with their children don't have a very large network. It can be very isolating. While you may not meet many stay-at-home dads in the real world, don't discount the virtual world as a place to make connections. About.com Fatherhood guide Wayne Parker has each put together a wonderful selection of resources for Stay-at-Home Dads.
Staying EmployableStay-at-home dads who put their careers on hold to raise a family should use their time at home wisely. You should make sure your skills are up-to-date so you are always employable should you need to return to work. While you are home keep in touch with what is going on in your field. Read journals, network with colleagues, and attend professional meetings when possible.
If during your career hiatus you decide that you want to make a future career change, take this time to begin figuring out what you'd like to do when you eventually return to work. If you need to further your education try to take some evening classes. It will stimulate you intellectually after a long day at home with the kids.
If your children are school age, get involved with your children's school's parent teacher organization. Take an active role. The skills you use can become part of your resume when you decide to return to work. Try volunteer work, or a part time job in your field. Your mind and your skills will stay fresh.