How Do Stay-at-Home Dads Really Feel?

Traditional parenting roles have gone by the wayside over the past several decades. Women earn more than they did in the past, there are more single family households than ever, and the current economic climate has forced many fathers to stay at home. In fact, the number of domestic dads has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, according the US Census. Aside from unemployment or economic factors, there are many other reasons that couples choose to have dad stay home with the kids. Some fathers believe they are better fit to raise their children than the mother. Other men genuinely want to be with their kids and get to know who they are. And mom’s outlook influences the decision too. “In other words, the mother’s attitudes toward female and male parenting roles and her own investment in childcare may serve to limit or expand the father’s participation in childcare,” said Jessica Fischer of Indiana State University. “For example, women who are employed and who believe that men should participate more in childcare may be more likely to encourage their husbands to stay home than a woman with more traditional child rearing beliefs.”

Fischer and her colleague Veanne N. Anderson, interviewed 49 employed dads, who did participate in parenting, and 35 stay-at-home dads, to determine how they viewed gender stereotypes and their reasons for deciding to stay home or not stay home with their children. “Although stay-at-home-fathers had significantly less traditional gender role attitudes than employed fathers, the two groups reported similar levels of masculine and feminine characteristics,” said Fischer. She described the participants of the study when she added, “They may be an example of a subset of men who are transcending gender stereotypes and challenging the more traditional conceptualizations of masculinity.” Fischer went on to say, “Clinical and counseling psychologists and other health care professionals who work with fathers would benefit from recognizing the diversity of reasons men become stay-at-home fathers and the potential influence those reasons may have on the fathers’ health, well-being, and satisfaction with family life.”

Fischer, J., & Anderson, V. N. (2011, September 26). Gender Role Attitudes and Characteristics of Stay-at-Home and Employed Fathers. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024359

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jeff D

    Jeff D

    October 14th, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    How do they feel? They probably feel over worked and under paid just like any other parent who stays at home with the kids as a full time job.

  • sandra tate

    sandra tate

    October 15th, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    “Some fathers believe they are better fit to raise their children than the mother. Other men genuinely want to be with their kids and get to know who they are.”

    Perhaps, but unlikely. You never mentioned the most common reason of all: the woman earns more than the man does. In that case it’s the most obvious and practical solution all round that whoever earns less gives up their job if their spouse can support the household on their salary alone.

    Why does it feel like that was a hard thing for the article writer to say, hmmm? Must have been a guy writing it LOL. ;)

  • marie g

    marie g

    October 15th, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Stay at home dads, in my experience, are some pretty perky fellows! I mean they get to stay home with the kids all day and take care of the house while wife goes out and makes the money. What is not to love about that? If everyone in the marriage is happy with their roles then it should not be a problem for either of them. It is pretty common to see more and more men staying home with the kids these days, so really I am not even sure that this is an issue for anyone anymore. If there are resentments that has to be worked out by the couple, because I think society as a whole is bayond seeing this as something different anymore.

  • Carrie Malloch

    Carrie Malloch

    October 15th, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    I wish my husband had been a stay-at-home dad! He thinks being a homemaker and the main caregiver for the children equates to getting off light!!! I wish!!!

    I’d trade his 9-5 day for my 6am-11pm day anytime. At the weekends too off he goes with his buddies almost all weekend because “he needs a break after working hard all week”! What does he think I’m doing when he’s at work?

  • amy stone

    amy stone

    October 15th, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    My brother opted to be a stay at home dad. He hated it and it wasn’t the parenting, but other parents. Don’t talk to me about gender equality.

    When he tried taking his son to local toddler groups the moms didn’t exactly welcome him with open arms. He said it was like they felt there was a spy in the camp and grudged him being there. They hardly spoke to him. There’s still a long road before full acceptance of this trend. Shame on them.

  • J.D. O'Donnell

    J.D. O'Donnell

    October 15th, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    @Carrie- Oh, I’d be absolutely livid about that too. I gave up my corporate job, which was in very highly stressful but well paid environment, to raise our three year old twins. Going out to work was a piece of cake compared to childrearing!

    My pet peeve is when someone asks what I do and when I tell them they sniff “oh so you don’t work?” as if I’m some lazy beggar. I WORK! It’s just that I do it inside the home and not outside of it.

  • Alma Jacobs

    Alma Jacobs

    October 15th, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    @Carrie Malloch–You need to book yourself a weekend away with the girls or have some imaginary out-of-town family emergency or something, woman. You deserve a weekend off yourself! Let him babysit and see how much his understanding of what’s involved in running a household and family changes by the time you get back. He’ll be pleading with you to return, I’m betting.

    One thing you often hear stay-at-home dads say is what an eye-opener it is to how much their partner actually handles.

  • Maxine Hoskins

    Maxine Hoskins

    October 15th, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Most dads don’t want to do it because it’s not manly enough for them. Their egos can’t deal with being seen to be doing “women’s work”. It takes two to make a baby and should take two to rear it as well. Where’s the shame in doing what’s ultimately best for your family? I don’t get their reluctance.

  • Dave


    July 24th, 2016 at 9:14 PM

    For men I don’t think staying at home is as fulling as most( not all) woman do. Do u personally know any stay at home dads who u are close enough with for them to state an honest opinion ?

  • hope robinson

    hope robinson

    October 15th, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Why don’t we ever see articles about studies on how stay-at-home moms really feel? Researchers appear to just assume all mothers are thrilled to be parenting 24/7 and it’s not necessary. I sure wasn’t! I loved my baby but I missed my job, my work friends, my routine and my sleep. Let’s have some balance!

  • Ben


    October 16th, 2011 at 5:45 AM

    @J.D. O’Donnell:I completely agree.I thought I had the toughest job in the world until my wife challenged me to look after our three young children for just 4 days while she was away on a all-girls vacation.

    Now there is no more of you-have-it-easy from me and I respect all stay-at-home parents, whether they are a father or a mother.

  • Michael


    October 16th, 2011 at 10:48 PM

    I’m a stay-at-home dad for the past 6 months and I feel great. Yes there are occasions where people have not given their best reaction but I don’t care.I’m doing work and something that is great for the kids and family.There is no shame in that.

  • sharon


    October 17th, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    men have been the breadwinners forever and I prefer it that way.I would not be very comfortable if the father stays home in a family.He needs to get out and provide for his family,not stay home!

  • Dave


    July 24th, 2016 at 8:48 PM

    I am a stay at home dad of two children ages 2.5 and 1. I am a carpenter and my fiancé is a doctor so I offered to stay at home when my 2.5 year old daughter was born and my fiancée was releaved and I thought I was getting an easy out but doing a good deed for the family as I was unhappy with my current work situation. I thought it was tough every step of the way but looking back on it when my daughter was less than one year old I had more free time between naps. Now with two kids and the 2.5 year old transitioning to no naps my mission is to tire her out during the day. It’s a sh$t load of work and energy. I love my kids to the fullest as any stay at home mom would tell u and it it totally tougher than being a carpenter (which will wear down ur body over time) than I ever could imagine. In spite of this I would not change a thing. I personally feel that for a dad I handle the SAHD better than most of the male population but not all.
    I have heard that most stay at home dads or men who earn less than their woman struggle with the fact their not the bread winner and can mess with their masculinity. For me that has never been a thought or problem. I totally respect my fiancée and my own capabilities as professionals. I was a very hard worker and eager to learn and proud carpenter. It makes complete sense to me that she works and I stay at home and I think in our particular case I am more fit to wether the storm at home and she is more fit to work based on our personalities and habits. I would consider my self a … Don’t know the right word but get it done kind of guy on my own no matter what the scenario She is more of a delegator who handles working with people better than me and can accomplish a ton because she is extremely smart. We are completely symbolic as a couple and couldn’t live with out eachother. That being said we still have our struggles and I have mine being a stay at home dad. I am not as patient with the kids as my fiancée is. I just can’t ha doe the kids bullsh%t like my fiancée can. I get pissed. I can’t stand giving them baths or folding their clothing or putting their clothing away. I try but I suck at it. I feel like I do everything for them which I understand is parenting 101 but for a male it’s a little against the grain of men have been behaving forever. At work as a carpenter older guys always hated explaining things to me as a young novis carpenter. I thought they were d$cks I get it now. Men are wired differently. Woman talk to their kids more then men do. That’s how kids learn how to talk. Us men are not wired to do this. When I leave my kids for a man trip for a few days I feel bad for who ever is taking care of them wether it’s my fiancé or mom but I don’t miss them nearly as much as my fiancée does. She works full time and wants to spend every night of her life with our kids even if there giving us hell. For me if with out our kids I love the idea of our kids but feel overwhelmed about the work load of talking care of them. As a stay at home dad I cook, clean, do laundry, manage all typical man house duties such as lawn, trash snow shoveling ect. I just feel bad asking my fiancé to do things around the house when I see how whipped out she is or how much she misses the kids. They need their time together. My kids already favor me cause I’m with them all the time. Especially my 2.5 yo daughter who spites my fiancé and favors me for everything. I know our kids habits and what it takes to get them to sleep or to eat. When I fish once a week on Saturdays my fiancé calls me telling me how misbehaved our kids are. I ask did u take them for a walk or to the park. She’s too tired to do any of that so the kids are bored. I understand her job is demanding and she’s whipped out by the end of the week. I need a break too. Might as well let out all my feelings here cause this is the first time I truly got to vent every thing written down. Our sex life has been down in the dumps since she got pregnant with out 2.5 year old daughter. I totally respected it when she was pregnant and her pregnancy were rough on her I waited on her hand and foot. If she wanted cereal in the middle of the night I would get it for her. I would make her lunches for work and coffee and take care of all the other loose ends as I was madly in love. With two young kids romance is few and far between. Our sex life was amazing before she got pregnant. Now she has zero sex drive and I can’t even touch her with her cringing. It’s been 3 years with out a good sex life for me. As a guy that enjoys that part of life very much it’s been very tough for me. I don’t know what to do. I looked online on how to get ur wife who has kids to want u and I already do everything they suggested. I tell her she’s beautiful, I make her lunch and coffee, I tell her if she needs time with her friends let me know and I will watch kids, I do almost all the chores around the house( which is fine cause I stay at home and that’s kind of an expectation of mine, I know I’m old school) I just think her body is not desiring sex and it’s hormonal. That’s the only way I can explain it to myself. I’m positive she’s not cheating on me as some might suspect in this scenario cause she’s 42 yo and had enough partners to get a feel for what she wants in a guy. We still love eachother but we fight maybe twice a week and I’m extremely sexually frustratedly thinking about sex all day long and I just want my woman to want me. I work out I do p90x I take care of my self and the kids. I’m 10 years younger than my fiancé. What do I do? I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I need a sex life. I’m waiting for her drive to come back. Can anyone give me any advise

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