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Men Choosing Fatherhood Over Careers

This article was written by in Career and Work, Family and Life. 6 comments.

Last week, I acknowledged recent survey findings from the Pew Research Center showing that women are beginning to value success in their careers more than men value their own. It’s a historical twist, brought about by the idea that women entering the workforce is no longer related to a necessity, but an innate desire. Women, as a group, have a higher level of education and are increasingly choosing to pursue a successful career path.

With young children at home needing care and an increasing cost of outsourcing that care, many families need to choose a parent to stay home while the other earns money with an occupation. Women are still subject to compensation inequity — again, as a group — but in an increasing number of families, the wife is out-earning the husband. The choice is often simply financial; whoever earns the most money or has the potential to earn the most continues in their career path, while the other parent stays home to care for the child or children.

Now that more men are staying home to care for their children while their wives concentrate on their careers, it’s easier to shatter one of the long-standing myths about fatherhood. Previously, men who chose to pause their path to career success were judged inadequate to survive in the world of business.

Men are raised to value work as their main source of worth and self-esteem. Society’s underlying message is that men who make sacrifices and choose family over career advancement do it because they can’t succeed at work. But we are at the beginning of an epic shift in cultural norms. More men are finding parenthood meaningful and that is raising the status of fathers. Some men are trading career advancement for time with their family because they value the fulfillment they find in fatherhood, not because they can’t hack it in the job market. More men than ever feel that being a good father is a significant accomplishment in life.

Child and fatherResults from a survey performed last year by the University of Nebraska indicate that 75 percent of men consider being a parent very important, while only 48 percent had the same opinion about having a successful career. It’s possible, however, that there is a new stigma against being overly concerned with financial success, and this psychological aversion to being associated with the stereotypical careerist might prevent people from answering in a survey in a manner the respondent might think reflects poorly on themselves. There’s a tendency, also, to answer surveys as if one is an ideal. In other words, I might answer a survey as if I were an ideal version of myself rather than reflecting a true self-analysis.

Even if that is the case, it reflects the idea that stay-at-home-fatherhood is now a more respected life choice than it has been in the past.

Having a two-income family is still a luxury, and when at least one of the two incomes is significant enough to afford a solid living for a family of three or more, it’s a blessing. Most middle class families, when both parents are working out of necessity, it’s the ability to stay home with the children that is a luxury. It can be a difficult choice, particularly if one parent’s income is roughly equivalent to the cost of day care for his or her child or children.

The argument fails to consider yet another reality of life: one parent, either a father or a mother, struggling to earn an income and take care of one child or more, without a spouse for support.

For men: Would you put your career on hold — possibly forever — if it made more financial sense for you to stay at home with your children?

For women: Would you be willing to pursue your career full steam ahead while your partner develops a closer bond with children through more time spent with them during formative years?

Photo: Chris. P
Fathers Forum, CNN, BabyCenter

Updated June 19, 2014 and originally published April 30, 2012.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

In my opinion and from what I see among family and friends it’s more give and take then the black and white suggested in your questions. This ain’t 1965 any more. In a lot of (most?) 21st century marriage or serious relationship there are going to be times when one partner is the “breadwinner” because the other is studying or caring for kids or unemployed or whatever, and times when one partner has to rein in their career or earning ambitions because the other needs to be in a certain geographic area or they need to care for kids or elderly parents or the like. And those roles are going to pass from one person to the other over the years; they certainly have in my marriage.

I work from home and in wandering around the neighbourhood at lunchtime or during the day meet a heck of a lot of dads bringing kids to the park, strolling the farmers market, walking the dogs with children, dropping little kids to the school bus at 8:30 (when they “should be” at work/commuting). Some probably don’t have regular 9 to 5s, some are in gay marriages so there is no woman in the family (I live in Canada), some are stay at home dads, some are on parental/paternity leave. There are many solutions beyond dropping out of the workforce. So I feel the change has already happened, individual opinions are just catching up.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

I think that’s a great observation. When it comes to cultural attitudes, I think of the movie “Mr. Mom.” It was released in 1983, at a time when the recognition of role reversal had entered the mainstream and was at a point it was easy to approach the topic lightheartedly (see also “Tootsie,” 1982), but still present the idea as outside the norm. The 1980s might have been the crossroads in the development of attitudes, where today’s widespread acceptance of fungible family and career roles, particularly when as flexible as you’ve described, is possible.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

My wife and I compromised and she went part time skewed to the weekend. I took care of the children when they were small while she was at work. There is no perfect answer to bringing up children or who stays home with the children. It worked for us.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I think it’s great that the question of whether to work or stay at home with the kids is finally being posed to men. As a woman, I’m often frustrated that at this point in time that women are still often the only ones expected to make that choice.

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avatar 5 qixx

I think i’d go a little stir crazy if i was a stay at home father. I can see it with my wife sometimes and i tend to be a little more antsy when it seems like i am not getting anything done. She does a lot in the house but on days i’m not at work and she is gone i just want more to do. Vacuuming and laundry don’t have the same mental workout i get at work.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

No, I would not choose an outside career and have children. I wanted to raise my own children, and considered it my career. Anything else was a hobby. I wouldn’t have had children if I planned to work outside the home. That said, if my husband could suddenly not support us, but could take care of the children, that would be okay with me if there were absolutely no choice. I don’t feel I would ever be capable of motherhood and workforce at the same time, and am in awe of those women who can do that.

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