Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of stay-at-home mums in the U.K. is falling by as many as 12,000 per month. However the number of stay-at-home dads is rising by 4,000 per month.
According to ONS data, there are just over 2 million stay-at-home mums in the U.K. compared with 2.8 million 20 years ago. And the number of women looking after their kids full-time has fallen by 35,000 in the last three months alone.
Clearly for many families it makes sense for the mother to go back to work and the father to stay at home to look after the kids and this is something that we need to get used to. But it’s a complex issue and every family has its own obstacles, considerations and potential pitfalls. There’s the suggestion that government policies on childcare are making stay-at-home parents feel that they are letting down their kids and, from this September, there will a further incentive for parents to work.
Couples who both work will receive an allowance of up to £2,000 per child to help with the cost of childcare, to encourage women back into the workplace. Almost 2 million British families will benefit from this scheme, says MoneySavingExpert.com, which will allow working parents to pay into a dedicated tax-free childcare account. The government will contribute 20 percent of childcare costs, meaning that for every £80 a family pays in, the government adds £20.
It’s great for parents to have financial help — childcare doesn’t come cheap — but does this put too much pressure on both parents to work? Should deciding what’s best for our children require a spreadsheet?
Unfortunately social expectation and government policies continue to join forces, peddling the myth that dads shouldn’t, wouldn’t or simply can’t care for their kids on their own. I have a slightly different take on this because I’m a single parent. When I have my kids, I have my kids. When they’re with their dad, they’re with their dad. There’s no asking him to “babysit” if I want to pop out for a few hours — something friends of mine do, which drives me bats**t crazy. This notion of men “babysitting” their kids is one that needs to be stamped out — now. It’s sexist towards women and men and it is an inaccurate reflection of family life for many modern couples.
The thing is stay-at-home dads have exactly the same issues as stay-at-home mums. Will I get back on the career ladder? Will I lose my identity if my days are consumed with nappy changing and play parks and story time? (Something every parent who worked before having kids will relate to). Will I feel inferior to my partner and resent him/her for having a life outside the family? It just happens to be the case that it has been primarily women facing these issues for… well, forever, and a relatively recent dilemma for men to weigh up.
What’s the answer? It’s pretty simple. Let’s support dads who want to stay at home and look after their kids. Let’s support mums who want to leave their kids with their dad/a nanny/some other responsible person while they go out to earn money. Let’s support parents in whatever choices they make because being a parent is tough enough without having the weight of other people’s (often misinformed) judgement on your shoulders.