Dads at Home with Kids and Still ‘Manly’

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley


TIME magazine ran an interesting piece about stay-at-home dads who, in leaving their jobs to raise kids, fear they may be abandoning their masculinity. If being a caring, stay-at-home dad means being “less manly,” than what does that say about a woman’s role as a mom? For some dads, staying at home with the kids isn’t a macho demotion — its a testosterone booster.

TIME reports:

“I’m probably a little whipped,” shrugs Lee Roberts, 45. He’s a part-time copy editor, married to a full-time journalist, who has stayed home for nine years to raise their two children. “There are definitely some guys who look at me and think, ‘What’s up with him?’ Do I care? Well, I guess I do a little because I just mentioned it,” he says. Haley speaks up to reassure him: “Kids remember, man. All that matters is that you’re there. Being there is being a man.”

Roberts’ sentiments reminded me of a book my dad gave me for Christmas last year called “Why a Daughter Needs a Dad.” The book is filled with photos of dads twirling their baby girls in one hand high above their heads, dads and daughters painting pictures propped on easels, dads holding onto the seat of the bicycle their daughter is riding, afraid of letting go …

The book is a bit gimmicky, and it seems to be written under the assumption that everyone has a caring father, but it still speaks to the importance of having a paternal figure in life, whether that figure is your actual dad, a good family friend, or someone who isn’t related to you but might as well be your surrogate dad.

How visible that paternal figure is depends a lot on work. While dads like Roberts might be able to stay at home and take care of the kids, for many dads, it’s still a challenge for many. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2006 show that only 6 percent of dads stay at home with the kids while their wives work. I wonder how many of these dads are jobless by choice. I wonder, too, how a child’s behavior changes depending on which parent/parental figure they spend the most time with as a child …

Click here to see an audio slideshow about dads that a friend of mine put together during Poynter’s six-week summer fellowship.

What do you think about stay-at-home dads? Do you think moms are more nurturing than dads?