As a stay-at-home dad (“SAHD”), I am a proud member of a rather exclusive club. The census bureau reported last January that the United States has an estimated 5.3 million "stay-at-home" parents. Rather amazingly, 5.1 million of them are mothers, and only 158,000 are fathers. And if you think the number of SAHDs is low, it is actually a significant increase from the number of SAHDs this country has had over the course of the past decade and a half. For example, in 2003 the census bureau counted only 105,000 SAHDs, and that number was a jump up from a mere 64,000 in 1995.
Are there really that few male caregivers in this country? Probably not. Jeremy Adam Smith explains in his book “The Daddy Shift” that “these numbers tell only part of the story of male caregiving, because they exclude stay-at-home fathers who also do paying work.” The census statistics are also skewed low because they consider only married couples, which means that they do not include unmarried straight SAHDs or gay SAHDs. Brian Reid, the blogger behind Rebeldad.com, also believes that there are a lot more stay-at-home dads than the number the census is reporting. In other words, my new role as a SAHD is completely under the radar as far as the government is concerned. There simply aren’t any statistics that I could find that estimated how many of us gay stay-at-home daddies are out there.
I realize how lucky I am to have the choice to be a SAHD. There are many dads out there who would like to be a stay-at-home parent but do not have the means to do it. For example, Rebeldad.com, on its Statistics page, includes a 2007 press release from CareerBuilder.com stating that “37 percent of working dads say they'd leave their jobs if their spouse or partner made enough money to support the family.”
So how did I wind up a SAHD? I’ve gotten that question a lot during my journeys out and about with Max. In the summer of 2008, when Stewart and I started to seriously consider having a child, we were both on the same page that one of us would stay at home with the baby, or at least be the primary care taker. If Stewart and I were going to work so hard to have a kid it would be a shame if one of us wasn’t there to raise him or her, since we have the means to do so. I was happy to volunteer to be the one to take on this role. Why me and not Stewart? The most obvious reason is that Stewart made a lot more money as a corporate litigation lawyer then I did as a business development manager in publishing. If we tried to raise Max on my salary alone we wouldn’t last very long, especially in New York City. We’d have to put Max to work at age 6 weeks. And while Max is certainly cute enough for Gerber casting calls, he’s a bit of a diva and that might cost him some call-backs!
So it was decided that I would be the SAHD. But we weren’t sure what the exact set up would be. Was I going to work part time for the job I was already in, and if so would it be from home or would I go into the office a few days a week? The decision was made for me when I got laid off at the end of last year -- a silver lining in the dark cloud that has been this recession. When that happened, we decided that instead of me looking for a new job, where I would only be able to work for 5 months full-time before having to ask them for time off when the baby was born, we decided that I would be a full-fledged stay-at home dad. We haven’t regretted it for a second. While caring for Max certainly feels like a full-time job sometimes, it’s certainly the most rewarding one I’ve ever had.
Who knows how long it will last. Ideally, I would like to be the primary care taker for our child until he goes to school for the majority of his day. At that point, as Max stretches his wings in school, I can see myself wanting to stretch my wings again back in the workforce. Then all three of us, Abba, Papa and little Max, can sit around the dinner table to discuss the projects we worked on each day, and complain about Mondays, and look forward to all of our exciting weekend plans together. What fun!