Stay-at-home-dads embrace responsibility shift
By Brenda Showalter
Couples are sharing more responsibilities today raising children, even switching traditional parenting roles.
Census figures, released recently, show that the U.S. has 176,000 stay-at-home dads — up from 93,000 in 2000 — but some fathers groups claim the numbers are much higher.
Daddyshome.org, a nationwide online network for at-home dads, says the census undercounted the actual number because it did not account for stay-at-home dads who were looking for work or who work part time.
The parenting change occurred in part as more women entered the workforce. In addition, the weak economy forced some families to adjust their child care arrangements.
But some couples simply have found that having dad at home with the children works for other reasons.
David and Amanda Dornfeld of Columbus decided before they were married that when they had children, David would stay at home when Amanda went back to work as a family practice physician.
“We are fortunate that we can do this,” Amanda said.
David has been the primary caregiver for the couple’s three children since the birth of their oldest, 6-year-old Luke. His days also include caring for Noah, 3, and Violet, 15 months.
“I love it a lot, but it’s exhausting,” said David, a certified public accountant. He squeezes in some work hours during the busy tax season.
David, 36, takes care of most of the typical household tasks, including grocery shopping, menu planning and cooking. Amanda does the laundry.
Amanda, 34, said she admires her husband’s parenting skills, from coordinating daily schedules and playing with the kids to remaining calm when sibling squabbles erupt.
“”I always say his job is harder than mine. And he’s really, really good at it,” said Amanda, who works at Sandcrest Family Medicine.
Joan Poulsen, assistant professor of psychology at IUPUC, said fathers who are not primary breadwinners are still sometimes stigmatized, but attitudes are changing.
“Things have definitely changed since the 1950s and ’60s with what husbands and wives are expected to do in the household,” Poulsen said.
Studies show that today’s couples are more likely to share cooking, cleaning and child care.
“Both parents can equally nurture a child even though we traditionally think of women as doing this,” Poulsen said.
She added that one of the advantages for children of stay-at-home dads is the strong bonds they develop with their fathers.
Drew Vaughan, 32, of Hope has been the primary caregiver for his sons Nick, 11, and Nate, 7, for about a year and a half.
“I like being in my kids’ lives all the time,” said Vaughan, who received a medical discharge from the Army. His wife, Staci, 40, works in administration in the Division of Science at IUPUC.
“I get the kids up and get them ready for school, clean the house, pay bills, run errands,” Vaughan said of his typical day.
Vaughan said he misses going to work sometimes, but he’s glad he had this time with the boys.
Jeff Jones, 53, of Columbus has been a stay-at-home dad since 1997.
His wife, Terry, a manager at a local business, first suggested he stay home with their boys, Dylan, now 17, and Nicholas, 11.
“I was having back problems at the time and it seemed like the right fit,” Jones said.
“I’ve been able to bond with my sons in a way that not all dads get too.”
Jones believes the economy has forced more men into the role of stay-at-home dad, but he doesn’t think it’s for all men.
“What works for our family situation might not work for every family. Not every guy is cut out for this,” Jones said.
Ethan Crough, 38, of Columbus said staying at home with his two young children has been a good experience.
“I’ve liked the bonding aspect of it and all the memories I’ve had,” Crough said. “You’re the ones watching them grow up.”
Crough works a part-time evening job at the Bartholomew Public Library. He and his wife, Emily Westhafer, who works for the Columbus Regional Hospital Foundation, trade off the kids after dinner.
Jones said in all the years he’s been a stay-at-home dad only one time did he receive negative feedback, which came from a man he knew.
“It’s been a blessing. It’s the toughest job I’ll ever love,” Jones said.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported recently that 32 percent of fathers with working wives were a regular source of care for their children under age 15, up from 26 percent in 2002.
Information from: The Republic, http://www.therepublic.com/