4 Misconceptions About Stay-at-Home Dads We Need to End Now

Dec 26, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. ET

By Valerie Lynn

Picture a stay-at-home dad. What comes to mind?

If you're tempted to describe an overweight, bald, lazy man who sits around drinking beer and watching sports all day while the kids play, sadly, you're not alone. Similar to the weird belief that stay-at-home moms sit around watching soap operas and eating bonbons, SAHDs are plagued by misconceptions surrounding what, exactly, they do. It’s unfortunate that the world we live in still discounts and undermines the value of domestic work and family.

One of the most significant social trends in the past 20 years has been the rise in the number of SAHDs. In the United States, this number has reached 1.9 million — and accounts for 16 percent of the stay-at-home parent population according to 2015 U.S. Census data. Thankfully, our culture continues to shift away from the rigid gender roles of past generations; women expect more involvement from dads, and more dads step up to the challenge by willingly taking on the primary caregiver role in their children’s lives.

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After speaking with a few SAHDs IRL, I found these fathers have quite a few shared pet peeves. Here are the misconceptions they wish would end... now.

1. Stay-at-home dads are glorified babysitters

Every SAHD I spoke with told me that when they meet someone for the first time, they're asked, "Where is the mother?" and "Are you babysitting?" This is an awful parenting stereotype. Why would you assume a father would only be with his kids if he were "babysitting"? That, as a male, he wouldn’t be taking a genuine interest in spending quality time with his children unless he'd been directed to? Yes, unfortunately — still, today — moms are stuck with the lion's share of child care. But there are dads who fill that role, and assuming otherwise is demeaning.

2. They're lazy & don't want to work

Who ever said staying at home to look after children and the home was easy? Anyone who has experienced taking on the primary responsibility of caring for children knows it's more than a full-time job. Handling school obligations and social schedules on top of the domestic responsibilities of managing a household is a workload that is never complete, and I don’t know anyone who has successfully balanced both. Anyone who believes SAHDs are lazy must never have been in a stay-at-home position themselves.

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3. They're out of work

Why can’t a dad be the chief caregiver of his family by choice? Who says women have dibs on this role forever? Just look at military families: As more military dads have returned home from the Middle East and elsewhere over the past 10 years, many of them are joining the ranks of the few, the proud, the SAHDs. While on active duty, these dads may be deployed from one to three years away from their children. So it's no wonder many military fathers, once they leave the armed forces, are choosing to stay home and take a more active role in their children’s lives. And that's just one career example.

4. They aren't earning an income

Just because a dad chooses to stay at home doesn’t mean he isn’t earning an income. Technology and the internet mean working in traditional offices is no longer an absolute or even the norm. According to Global Workplace Analytics, work-from-home positions among non-self-employed workers have grown by 115 percent since 2005, which is nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce. Additionally, the digital population engaged in virtual, remote employment, telecommuting and flextime has grown immensely, with 45 percent of U.S. employees working from home according to a 2015 report by New Jersey Institute of Technology.

So, just because a dad doesn’t go into an office doesn’t mean he isn’t working. Several dads I know have arrangements with their companies so they can be on calls during (or even before or after) their children’s school days. Other dads I’ve spoken with engage in virtual work that is project-based so they can work at odd hours that don’t conflict with school schedules. It’s a juggling act, but they make it work.

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Stay-at-home dads have my full respect; they, like stay-at-home moms before them, are a force to be reckoned with.

Originally published onFairygodboss.