From ‘Mister Mom’ to ‘Stay-at-Home Dad’

Are more men staying at home in order to raise their kids?

Yes, happily, but not as many as some may assume.

A recent Pew Research Center report looked at stay-at-home dads and their reasons for being home. Nearly 2 million fathers stayed at home in 2012, according to the most recent Census data — close to double the 1.1 million in 1989.

In fact, the largest increase in reasons dads gave for staying at home was a desire to take care of their family. This showed a huge jump – from 5% in 1989 to 21% in 2012.

Yet it’s important to recognize that men report that the key reason for staying at home was illness or disability, not a desire to become more active in parenting. However, the number who cited illness or disability as the reason for staying at home has decreased significantly, from 56% in 1989 to just 35% in 2012. About 23% of stay-at-home fathers said they were at home because they were unable to find work.

The number of stay-at-home dads reached a peak of 2.2 million in 2010 – the height of the Recession.

What is most fascinating here is not just the stats but the attitudinal changes that accompany them – the fact that more dads want to spend more time with their kids, and that women expect more involvement. It goes hand in hand with other changes, like more women earning more than their spouses. Even the language is changing, from a derogatory “Mister Mom” to a more accepting “stay-at-home dad.”

For those of us who have been marketing to multiple generation of families, it’s been quite an evolution – although, our own Child’s Play research shows, it is still moms who are making most of the household purchasing decisions. They remain by far the majority of stay-at-home parents – 84% in 2012 vs. 16% for dads.