How The Rise In Caregiving Dads Is Affecting Women

Al Watts, a stay-at-home dad for the last decade, discusses the findings of a new study released yesterday that analyzes fatherhood in the 21st century and how it affects moms and dads in the workplace.

When we decided I would become an at-home dad, we didn’t consider how it would affect my career or my wife’s. The only thing we considered was if this was the best arrangement for our family at that time.

Nearly 10 years and four kids later, it has turned out to be much better than we could have imagined. I have become a very confident father. My wife has thrived in her career getting promoted about seven times in those 10 years and now earning about double what she was before I started staying home.

During the last 10 years I have been home, a lot of other families have made the same choice. In fact, the number of at-home dads has doubled over the last decade. The number of married fathers who are primary caregivers has risen from 26% to 32% in the last five years.

As I explained here back in April, this dramatic increase in the number of at-home dads is NOT the result of the economic recession. The reasons are much more pragmatic and are often the result of women earning enough money to support the family and men wanting to take advantage of this opportunity to be more involved parents.

My analysis of the reasons for this increase in at-home dads was sited in the conclusion of a study released yesterday from the Boston College Center for Work & Family by Brad Harrington, Fred Van Deusen, and Iyar Mazar. The study, the third in their series of studies on how fatherhood in the 21st century affects the workplace, sought to discover why men stay home, how well they are doing, and how this affects moms and dads in the workplace. I was one of the participants in the study.

What they found was remarkable in that it was the exact opposite of what most people believe about at-home dads. Most at-home dads CHOOSE to be home; they are not forced into it by a lay-off. It appears ANY DAD could thrive as an at-home dad since there was almost no commonality of family background or experience among the at-home dads studied. At-home dads are very good at managing childcare and the household, a fact their wives who were surveyed, confirmed.

However, one of the most intriguing conclusions from the study was the impact at-home dads are having on their working wives’ careers. Without concerns about child care arrangements, the wives of at-home dads were able to focus more on their careers and, as a result, many of them have thrived.

The researchers concluded that help at home from dads taking on more child care responsibilities may be the missing component of women breaking through the “glass ceiling.”

We didn’t think about any of this when we decided I would stay home. All we cared about was how to raise our children the best way we could think of. It turns out we were at the beginning of a trend that will make families and workplaces more equal. Funny how something that seemed like a natural thing to us is, in a small way, changing the world.

Al Watts is a nine-year veteran at-home dad to four children ages 10, 7, 5, and 4 in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the President of The National At-Home Dad Network (formerly Daddyshome, Inc, writes regularly for, and Good Men Project and is co-editing a book project chronicling the fatherhood revolution titled “Dads Behaving Dadly.”  

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