Stereotypes Stay-at-Home Dads Deal With

Even though it's becoming more accepted, stay-at-home dads often find themselves the target of criticism or judgment. The opinions of others can make stay-at-home dads feel like outcasts in the child-rearing world. It can be hard not to snap back or feel beaten down, but how well you handle such remarks can help you feel more comfortable in the role.

Here are the top misconceptions about stay-at-home dads.


They're at Home Watching Sports All Day

dad baking with two kids

 Zing Images/The Image Bank/Getty Images

There aren’t that many sports on during a weekday, so watching plain old TV can fill the role. But watching TV, unless it is getting a short break from the toddler by tuning into PBS’s children’s programming, is usually the last thing on your mind during a hectic day.

You may get to watch a late ​Sportscenter ​once the kids are in bed and the house is reorganized, but there are no guarantees.


Their Spouse Would Rather Be Home

There is a theme to misconceptions that at-home dads have to deal with, and it is rife with gender stereotypes. This one is a reverse misconception. Just as there are men who don’t necessarily want to be stuck in the office all day and would rather take care of the kids, there are women who want to advance their careers.

There is no doubt that your wife would like to spend more time with the kids. Your family talked long and hard about this decision and concluded it would be the best situation. It’s doubtful that during the process she said she didn’t want to be a mom.


Men Would Rather Be in the Office

Most stay-at-home dads can tell you they know a male friend, former co-worker, acquaintance or family member who has told them they would love to take care of the kids if they could.

The Pew Research Center survey in 2014 reported that 48% of fathers wished that they could stay at home with the children. Most men in this role chose to be here and wouldn’t want to give it up.


Men Don’t Stay at Home With the Children

True, only 214,000 men are classified as full-time fathers according to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau numbers. That’s compared with 10.4 million full-time moms.

But when you throw in the part-time at-home dads or those who do most of the caring for the kids—they work at night and watch the kids during the day, for example—the number of men as primary caregivers is as high as 20%.

Additionally, the number of men staying at home has nearly tripled in the past decade and continues to grow. Full-time dads are increasingly visible.


Men Can’t Watch the Kids as Well as Women

Unsolicited advice is another common aspect stay-at-home dads deal with when out in public with their kids. You handled that tantrum incorrectly, you dressed them wrong, you shouldn’t be giving them that popcorn. Or how about, “Those kids should be with their mother.”

Why? Because a man can’t competently take care of a child? Moms surely get similar advice, and there is no way to say who has to deal with it more. Either way, it’s not a great feeling to be told you don’t know what you’re doing.


They Must Have Lost Their Job

There is no other reason a dad would want to take care of the kids other than he was forced to, right? There is no question in these economic times some men have taken on the role because they were laid off or their job situation isn’t promising. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to stay at home.

Don’t be surprised if many more men used the economic climate as the perfect excuse to spend more time with their children.


They Must Be Looking for a Job

Again, people have a hard time comprehending that a father would want to stay at home. It is sometimes hard to find support for the decision or to find the right response when finding out what ​a SAHD does. A lot of people are set in their ways.

If people ask how the job hunt is going or pass along employment advertisements, take it as a compliment that they are thinking about you.


They Must Not Have Any Motivation

If you’re staying home all day instead of at work, it must be you can’t find something to do with your time or don’t want to. You’d rather sleep until noon, roll out of bed and eat a bowl of Frosted Flakes, play some video games and take a nap.

The problem with that theory is that kids don’t sleep until noon, and if you’re lucky you get a bowl of cereal when they eat. In fact, on the motivation front, SAHDs have to take the opposite approach. Being a full-time caregiver requires a lot of determination and composure.

It is a job that doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. or for the weekend, and if you’re not on your toes constantly with the kids, they will eat you alive. Not to mention, you need to be motivated just to deal with these misconceptions.


So, You’re Babysitting Today?

Every stay-at-home dad has heard this. He probably heard it during the first week while out running an errand. And he’s heard it many, many times since. Yes, most kids are watched by women.

But to automatically think that a father, even one who doesn’t stay with the kids full time, would only be with the children if he was babysitting shows how deep the parenting stereotype is.

Respond by taking the high road. Smile and nod, or just say, “I watch them every day.” They’ll get the hint, and likely will feel a little guilty about making the comment.


They Are Not Masculine

This is the granddaddy of all stay-at-home misconceptions. Watching the kids is a woman’s job. Men are supposed to be the breadwinners. You are not a man.

These inappropriate statements are enough to make anyone unsure. It’s easy to get beaten down by this stereotype in what can already be an isolating role. A big defense is to show you have a grasp on the important task of making sure the kids are growing right is as important and rewarding of a job as any.

You are taking care of your family. Doesn't that fall under the umbrella of what a man is supposed to do?

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  1. Pew Research Center. Growing Number of Dads Home with the Kids. Updated June 2014.

  2. Rushing C, Powell L. Family Dynamics of the Stay-at-Home Father and Working Mother RelationshipAm J Mens Health. 2015;9(5):410-420. doi:10.1177/1557988314549414