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Mr. Mom by Choice
There is a popular perception that stay-at-home dads are bumbling fools a la Michael Keaton's "Mr. Mom" -- unemployed men who are afraid of vacuum cleaners and feed babies chili. This stereotype has been played repeatedly for comedic effect on TV, movies and in commercials, but it has never quite resonated. Men who set their careers aside to take care of their children resent the notion that they don't know what they're doing. And the Homer-Simpson-as-dad archtype assumes that mom is happy to run off to the office every day to chase the almighty dollar while dad possibly endangers the lives of her children.
The third issue with this stereotype is that it's not true. In the last decade the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled from 81,000 in 2001 (1.6 percent of all stay-at-home parents) to 176,000 (3.4 percent.) Researchers at Boston College did something novel and actually talked to these guys. They conducted an adimittedly small-but-telling study and discovered that:
- As opposed to what has been widely reported in the media, the increasing number of dads staying at home has little to do with the economy or so-called "man"-cession. "It is a choice, often made by both spouses for pragmatic and value-driven reasons."
"There is no one type of person or style of upbringing that makes it easy to predict who will choose to be an at-home dad or will be effective in that role."
- Staying at home is harder for men than women. "Feelings of social isolation and stigma regarding the role of at-home parent are even greater for men."
- Mr. Moms help women succeed in the workplance. "Having an at-home spouse enabled the wives to pursue their careers in a much fuller fashion, without the limitations that virtually all other working mothers experience."
- Moms agreed that the at-home dads were good parents.
- Being a stay-at-home dad adds meaning to the men's lives.
It's funny because it's not true.