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What is a Stay-At-Home Dad?

By Phil Shepley
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By whiteplane — On May 26, 2012

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.

By chivebasil — On May 26, 2012

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.

By backdraft — On May 25, 2012

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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