The number of stay-at-home fathers in the US increased in the aftermath of the last recession, as many men were thrown out of work and became unemployed for long periods of time. In recent years, however, more American men are taking on stay-at-home parenting roles because they want to, rather than because they can’t find work, Preeti Varathan reports at Quartz:
Since 1970, the share of stay-at-home dads not looking for work in the US rose from less than 1% to about 4% of all married fathers with a child under 18. It used to be the case that many more stay-at-home dads were actively seeking work, but in the past five years many more fathers are choosing to stay at home with their kids.
To be clear, although their numbers are on the rise, the share of men staying home by choice lags far behind women. While 4% of dads chose to leave the workforce and stay at home in 2016, defined as a dad with a working partner and a child under 18, 28% of mothers did the same. … Although some stay-at-home dads would rather be working, since 2012 a clear majority stay home by choice, and many are energized to be caretakers.
Other recent studies have also found that American men are increasingly interested in playing more active or primary roles in parenting their children, though the burden of child care still falls mostly on women, and men who eschew paid work to raise children are still often stigmatized for doing so.
One study, for example, found that men and women experience similar work-life balance issues, particularly when it comes to juggling work and family responsibilities, but women are more likely to voice these concerns, while men suffer from the expectation that managing both employment and fatherhood will not be a challenge for them. As fathers become more involved in the home (a win-win-win for their children, their partners, and themselves), we are starting to see greater demand for gender-neutral parental leave policies as well.
The evolution of parenting and gender roles is challenging employers to keep parents of both genders in the workforce by offering them the flexibility they need to find that elusive work-family balance and finding ways to ensure that active parents aren’t penalized for their devotion to their families or held back their career progression. These changes are also driving a re-evaluation of parental leave policies that differentiate between “primary” and “secondary” caregivers: A recent discrimination charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission illustrates the liability employers may expose themselves to if their policies assume that mothers will play the “primary” caregiving role.