For the purpose of its mission, the National At-Home Dad Network defines an “at-home dad” as any father who is the regular primary caregiver of his children.
: any father who is the regular primary caregiver of his children, usually while his partner works outside the home as the family’s main breadwinner. Also called a “stay-at-home dad” (SAHD) or “work-at-home dad” (WAHD)
In general, he cooks, cleans and cares for his children most days of the week, while his partner works outside the home as the family’s main breadwinner. Because many at-home dads also provide some income to the family, whether by working an evening or weekend shift full-time, working part-time inside or outside the home, or doing odd jobs when it works in the family’s schedule, we believe that a man’s position as an “at-home dad” is best defined by his role as a caregiver, rather than by his employment or income status. We also find that most at-home dads are in the role by choice (over 70%, according to this 2012 study), and not due to job loss or an inability to find employment.
While these men are doing what used to be almost exclusively done by moms, they are not “Mr. Mom.” They are at-home dads.
(For more on the real number of at-home dads, click here.)
The majority of at-home dads CHOOSE to be home (over 70% according to a study by Boston College Center for Work & Family in 2012). The typical dad chooses to be home because his spouse makes more income, has better benefits and has better long-term career opportunities and he and his spouse value having a parent home to care for their children.
Isolation – Being a stay-at-home dad can be an isolating experience which can lead to depression. Every at-home parent deals with isolation, but this is magnified for at-home dads because our society is still unfamiliar with men taking this role. On the playground, in the grocery store, or at pre-school, at-home dads often feel ignored or sometimes, feared, by the people they encounter. This makes it difficult for at-home dads to feel comfortable in their role or make many adult friends. While the number of men choosing to stay home with their children has more than doubled in the last 10 years, at-home dads still have many difficulties finding and connecting with other at-home dads.
Identity – At-home dads struggle with their identity as men. Society still believes that childcare and household chores are “a woman’s work” so at-home dads often can feel unsure of their manliness. This is further complicated by friends, family and even their own spouses not supporting their decision to be at-home dads. For some at-home dads, this identity struggle is too great and the family suffers from a man who becomes depressed and frustrated about his perceived failings to “be a man” or he returns to work. Fortunately, most at-home dads come to enjoy their unique role and get comfortable changing diapers and folding laundry instead of “bringing home the bacon.” These at-home dads are redefining the very definition of masculinity.
In order to improve one’s life as an at-home dad, and that of his family, he must be brought out of isolation and re-form his identity to become confident in this boundary-breaking role. One of the best ways, according to recent research by Dr. Aaron Rochlen of the University of Texas-Austin, is to connect with other at-home dads. However, finding other at-home dads nearby can be a great challenge. The National At-Home Dad Network’s mission is to bridge this gap by offering a resource for at-home dads to communicate in discussion forums, start or find a local at-home dad group and gather for the Annual At-Home Dads Convention.
At-home dads have a lot in common with at-home moms, but they are not moms. Men have different interests and styles of communication. Men parent differently. There is something that men gain from fellowship with other men that would be difficult to find in a mom’s group. In previous roles, an at-home dad found male friends through work or school. But at-home dads are typically much more isolated as noted above. The National At-Home Dad Network, our local at-home dad groups, annual convention and discussion forums offer a place for them to connect with new friends who are in the same situation.