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Poll: Novelty of the Stay-at-Home Dad Trend May Be Wearing Off

Frustrated father holding crying baby

Beginning in the early nineties, the number of men choosing to stay at home has steadily risen. According to the Pew Research Center, "the biggest contributor to long-term growth in these 'stay-at-home fathers' is the rising number of fathers who are at home primarily to care for their family." However, new research conducted in the UK reveals that "the trend appears to be reversing, with the number falling sharply to a three-year low — and experts say the novelty of being a 'new man' could be wearing off."

According to a report published by The Telegraph, new data from the Office for National Statistics says that in the UK, "there are currently 232,000 men opting out of the workplace — the lowest number since 2014, and a sharp drop against a pattern which has been steadily increasing since 1993."

The more interesting question isn't necessarily what's happening, but why it's happening.

The report in The Telegraph does speak to this:

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester, said it was a "sad commentary on our time." He said men were struggling to adapt to a changing work environment after hundreds of years of being expected to provide. "I think at one point in time it was quite trendy and adventurous to stay at home - men thought 'I should be a new man'. 'I think what's ended up happening is that they feel like society doesn't reward that and doesn't give them high status. Men feel that they are only valued for their work role."

Trends revealed by the Pew Research Center suggest that even with increasing attempts to legitimatize stay-at-home dads, the role is mainly taken up by men with less success in education than other men:

As is the case among mothers, stay-at-home fathers are less well-off financially and have lower educational attainment than their working counterparts. At-home fathers are twice as likely to lack a high school diploma as working fathers (22% vs. 10%). And almost half (47%) of stay-at-home fathers are living in poverty, compared with 8% of working fathers. This poverty figure is even higher than among stay-at-home mothers (34% of whom are in poverty), and may be due, in part, to the fact that stay-at-home fathers are far less likely to have a working spouse than stay-at-home mothers (50% vs. 68%) and are more likely to be ill or disabled than stay-at-home mothers (35% vs. 11%).

The report goes on to say:

The public is largely supportive of the idea of mothers staying at home with their children, but they place less value on having a stay-at-home father. In a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, fully 51% of respondents said children are better off if their mother is home and doesn’t hold a job. By comparison, only 8% said children are better off if their father is home and doesn’t work. On the other hand, 34% of adults said children are just as well off if their mother works, while 76% said the same about children with working fathers.

When only 51 percent of people believe that it's in the best interest of kids to have a stay-at-home mom, it means that society doesn't really value stay-at-home parents in general. Combine that with pressures to find self-fulfillment and to embrace individuality through a career path, and the rhetoric that it's ok for men to be a stay-at-home dad will ring hollow. Why should men stay at home when being a stay-at-home parent isn't highly regarded by almost half of society, regardless of how the conversation is shaped by the media and liberal sociologists?

If society truly wants more men to be stay-at-home dads, society as a whole will have to stop demonizing women who choose to be a stay-at-home mom over a professional career path.