Culture reporting has been abuzz lately with the “rise of stay-at-home dads,” as Pew Research announced earlier this month that their numbers have doubled over the past two decades.
Pew Research found that stay-at-home dads peaked in 2010, in tandem with the Great Recession. The report also finds 23 percent of dads stay home due to a failed job search — a story Roy Baldwin of Colorado Springs, Colo. knows all too well.
After a work transition, Baldwin became primary caregiver to his three children, he related in an interview with The Daily Signal.
“A few years ago my family experienced some pretty significant life changes, with unemployment being one of them,” Baldwin recounted. “I vividly recall my wife and I sitting down in tears, re-looking at our plans and dreams for our family.”
He begins to relate the emotionally complex time at arm’s length. “In some situations, wives may feel like they’re carrying the burden of being the primary breadwinner and missing out on being involved as the primary caregiver for the kids, and husbands may struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I know that was our experience.”
Baldwin noted he found “amazing support” during this time through the National At-Home Dad Network, devoted to providing education and advocacy for fathers who are primary caregivers.
The group recently stated their concerns with the new report in a detailed response, writing in part:
“While we are ecstatic to see Pew Research speak about their being over 2 million stay-at-home dads in the United States in 2012, we also have major concerns with their definition…
Their study is not truly about ‘stay-at-home dads,’ but rather about dads of young children who are unemployed. There is a difference.”
Baldwin landed a full-time position again in 2009 — as Director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to helping families thrive.
He stresses the uptick in men becoming stay-at-home dads — some for only a season — points to a positive trend of fathers taking a more active role in their children’s lives.
“I’ve seen many men who are doing an excellent job as stay-at-home dads. At a broader level, we’re seeing more and more dads engaging with their families,” Baldwin says with enthusiasm. “Today’s dads are finding a greater sense of purpose and identity in their roles as fathers, whether they’re in the workforce or staying home with the kids.”
“Children thrive when their dads are involved, so it’s been encouraging to see so many men step up to the plate when it comes to investing in their kids. This needs to be celebrated and embraced.”
He also highlighted the Pew report’s bottom line: 84 percent of stay-at-home parents are moms rather than dads.
As a contributor to Focus on the Family’s Dad Matters blog. Baldwin integrates the wisdom gleaned from his own experiences, other experts on-staff, and over 5,000 counseling calls the Christian ministry fields every month.
So what should families consider if dad is taking on the role of caregiver at home for a time?
“We recommend a couple be intentional about talking things out to make sure they’re on the same page,” Baldwin advises. “It goes back to making sure the arrangement is best for their particular family during the season of life they’re in.”
Even though his own time as a stay-at-home dad wasn’t easy, Baldwin says “that experience drew us closer together in ways that I will always treasure.”