In 1987, the New York Times wrote a review about a book that followed 17 families with stay-at-home dads for five years. The good news? “The children [of those families] showed signs of accelerated intellectual development without any harm to the important sexual identification that develops during the first years of life,” the reviewer, Ari Goldman, wrote. Sadly though, “all the families endured criticism about the arrangement they chose—from grandparents, employers, friends and even from the other parents in the playground.”
One of the stay-at-home fathers in the study said the police once paid him a visit in response to a neighbor’s report that “a man is ‘keeping’ a young child in the apartment.”
Fortunately, times are changing. Moms still make up the vast majority of stay-at-home parents, but fathers represent a growing share, according to a new Pew survey. In 2012, 16 percent of stay-at-home parents were dads, up from just 10 percent in 1989.
That’s a somewhat positive storyline, but these dads’ reasons for being at home aren’t as uplifting. There has been a big jump in the number of fathers who say they’re at home primarily to take care of their families— it’s now 21 percent, compared to 5 percent in 1989. But Pew adds:
Still, the largest share of stay-at-home fathers (35 percent) is at home due to illness or disability. This is in sharp contrast to stay-at-home mothers, most of whom (73 percent) report that they are home specifically to care for their home or family; just 11 percent are home due to their own illness or disability.
In other words, mothers are still more likely to stay at home because they think it’s the best way to raise the kids; fathers are more likely to do it because they physically can’t work outside the home.