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What is a Stay-At-Home Dad?

A Stay-at-Home Dad is a father who has chosen to be the primary caregiver for his children, taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting while his partner works. This role challenges traditional gender roles and highlights the evolving dynamics of modern family life. How does this shift impact families and society? Join the conversation and explore the changing face of parenthood.
Phil Shepley
Phil Shepley

A stay-at-home dad (SAHD) is a father who also takes on the role of primary caregiver of the child or children in his household. Typically the father assumes the responsibilities of the home as well as those of raising the children during the day, while the mother is the primary breadwinner and works full time. There are other variants of the stay-at-home dad, as well, since he can be in a non-married relationship, single, divorced, or widowed.

The typical stay-at-home dad sees himself as an equal partner with the mother, and both see child care as more important than yielding to traditional parental roles. These “traditional” roles of a working father and stay-at-home mother are no longer seen as the only option because of major changes of gender roles in recent history. Today, the mother’s career can provide greater incentives, money or benefits that encourage her to go to work while the father stays at home. Sometimes, however, the personality of the stay-at-home dad is simply a better fit for raising children full-time. The stay-at-home dad can also hold any of a variety of part or full-time jobs in addition to being the primary caregiver of his children.

A stay-at-home dad does many activities with his children, just as stay-at-home moms do.
A stay-at-home dad does many activities with his children, just as stay-at-home moms do.

The schedule of the stay-at-home dad is pretty much identical to that of the stay-at-home mom and involves many activities that depend on the ages of the child or children. On a basic level, the day includes keeping the children clean and fed, but it can also consist of countless other activities. Some of these include reading, playing games, cooking, play dates, and walks, but there are many more daily activities that depend largely upon the structure of the family. In any case, the stay-at-home dad takes on the role of primary educator for his children until they are sent to preschool or kindergarten. The father may also decide to continue his role as primary educator and home school his children.

Some stay-at-home dads also do part-time work while rearing a child.
Some stay-at-home dads also do part-time work while rearing a child.

Despite the recent shifts in society that have paved the way for fathers to raise their children at home, there are still many stigmas associated with stay-at-home dads. Many of these involve the assumptions that men are not “wired” to raise children in the same ways that women are. There are also many groups designed for mothers, such as playgroups, that frown upon the inclusion of fathers because of these assumptions. A stay-at-home dad can expect to have a difficult time socializing for these reasons, and will often seek out organizations that include other stay-at-home fathers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of a stay-at-home dad?

A stay-at-home dad is a father who has chosen to be the primary caregiver for his children, taking on the responsibility of managing the household while his partner works outside the home. This role involves a variety of tasks including child-rearing, cooking, cleaning, and organizing family activities. The decision to become a stay-at-home dad can be driven by various factors such as financial considerations, personal values, or a desire for stronger family bonds.

How common are stay-at-home dads in today's society?

Stay-at-home dads are becoming increasingly common, though they still represent a minority of primary caregivers. According to a 2016 report from the Pew Research Center, about 17% of all stay-at-home parents in the United States were fathers, a significant increase from the 10% reported in 1989. This trend reflects changing social norms and economic factors that allow for more flexibility in parental roles (Pew Research Center, "Number of U.S. stay-at-home parents rises, especially among dads," 2016).

What are some challenges that stay-at-home dads face?

Stay-at-home dads may encounter several challenges, including societal stereotypes that question their masculinity or parenting abilities. They can also experience isolation from predominantly mother-centric parenting groups and may struggle with the lack of a professional network or career progression. Additionally, some stay-at-home dads report feeling undervalued because their work is not financially compensated, which can impact their self-esteem and mental health.

How does the role of a stay-at-home dad benefit children and families?

Children with stay-at-home dads can benefit from increased paternal involvement, which studies have shown to be linked with better emotional, academic, and social outcomes. Families may experience more flexibility in managing work-life balance, and partners can pursue career opportunities knowing that their children are in the care of a devoted parent. This arrangement can also foster a more equitable division of labor and challenge traditional gender roles, promoting a diverse family dynamic.

What resources are available for stay-at-home dads seeking support and community?

Stay-at-home dads can find support and community through various resources, including online forums, social media groups, and local parenting networks specifically tailored to fathers. Organizations such as the National At-Home Dad Network provide a platform for stay-at-home dads to connect, share experiences, and access resources for navigating the challenges of their role. Additionally, many communities offer dad-centric playgroups and events to facilitate in-person connections (National At-Home Dad Network, "Resources," 2023).

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Discussion Comments

whiteplane

I follow a few stay at home dad blogs. Being one myself it is nice to get tips and share stories with men who are dealing with the same things as me.

One of the issues that comes up over and over for almost every guy that becomes a stay at home dad is maintaining their masculinity. It seems silly these days to think that caring for your child makes you less of a man, but those idea are buried deep in the culture and they are hard to unwind. Talking with other guys in the same boat really helps.

chivebasil

Has anyone read or seen the film version of Little Children by Tom Perotta? It is one of my favorite screen adaptations. The story focuses on a stay at home mom and a stay at home dad who begin a disastrous but unavoidable affair in their uptight suburb.

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what works so well in the book. Maybe it is the fact that you both empathize with and scorn the characters at the same time. You can feel that their love is real but it is so obviously wrong for everyone. It all ends disastrously of course.

backdraft

A friend of mine is a stay at home dad. I know that there is still a stigma around this kind of father but it seems to work out great for their family. The wife has a great job and was not interested in giving it up. The husband worked from home sometimes and generally had less earning potential than his wife so he agreed to look after the kids.

He is a great dad and it is so important for a child to be able to spend time with a parent and time in the home when they are young. I know too many families who ship their kids off to daycare as early as they possibly can. I know that stay at home parenting is not an option for all families but when it is it is usually the best option, whether it is mom or dad staying at home.

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    • A stay-at-home dad does many activities with his children, just as stay-at-home moms do.
      By: sneksy13
      A stay-at-home dad does many activities with his children, just as stay-at-home moms do.
    • Some stay-at-home dads also do part-time work while rearing a child.
      By: Rido
      Some stay-at-home dads also do part-time work while rearing a child.