Academic journal article Fathering

"I Feel like a Rock Star": Fatherhood for Stay-at-Home Fathers

Academic journal article Fathering

"I Feel like a Rock Star": Fatherhood for Stay-at-Home Fathers

Article excerpt

Since the 1970s, fathers have experienced a new set of expectations for their role. Fathers are now expected to be more involved with the hands-on daily caregiving of their children. Perhaps because of these changing expectations, more men are choosing to be stay-at-home fathers than in previous generations. Very little sociological research exists about stay-at-home fathers' ideas about fatherhood in the U.S. In particular, how do such men conceive of their status as stay-at-home fathers and of fatherhood? I explore these questions through in-depth interviews with men from locations across the United States. My study shows that stay-at-home fathers enact fatherhood in ways that may be starting to transform traditional and new ideals of fatherhood.

Keywords: Stay-at-home fathers, involved fathering, nontraditional families

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Since industrialization, breadwinning has comprised many fathers' contributions to family work, with hands-on involvement solely the domain of mothers (Lamb, 2000). However, the standards for fathers have evolved to expect more engagement with the day-to-day work of caring for children (Daly, 1996; Risman, 1998). Since these changes in the later part of the 20th century, more men are staying home to care for their children. The number of stay-at-home fathers increased in the United States from 105,000 in 2002 (Fields, 2003) to 189,000 in 2012 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013a). Latshaw (2011) argued that these figures under-represent the number of stay-at-home fathers by close to a million because the Census Bureau does not count men who report other reasons for being out of the labor force or who have been out of the labor force for less than a year as primary caregivers. In 2009, 22% of men who were not working for pay said they were out of the labor force because they were "taking care of home/family," up from 1% who gave that response in the 1970s, according to Current Population Study (CPS) data (Kramer, Kelly, & McCulloch, 2010).

In addition, some research points to an increase in positive portrayals of stay-at-home fathers in the media (Riggs, 1997; Vavrus, 2002) and "how-to" guidelines for families transitioning to the stay-at-home father/breadwinning mother model (Gill, 2001). In the U.S., more representations of stay-at-home fathers appear in television shows such as Up All Night on ABC and Parenthood on NBC. Filmmaker Michael Schwartz made a documentary about Baltimore stay-at-home fathers, called Happy SAHDs. Such developments perhaps signal growing societal acceptance of stay-at-home fathers. As this is a new phenomenon, little research in the United States has been conducted to date. Although fewer fathers stay home full-time to care for children compared to mothers who do (about 5 million mothers stayed home full-time in 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2013b), studying stay-at-home fathers will help scholars understand the attitudes and experiences of men who prioritize care work. Understanding their attitudes and experiences could increase societal support for other men who want to leave paid work in order to care for children. Moreover, it may illustrate ways in which the societal meanings of fatherhood are evolving and how fathers take up these meanings, as Yarwood (2011) notes that fatherhood can be a dynamic status. In her study, Yarwood illustrates how fathers in the UK take up various discourses about fathering to make sense of their experiences as fathers. Thus, they do not draw on just one discourse (i.e., the traditional father or the involved father) but rather draw bits and pieces of both to construct their fathering identities. This is similar to my work on male professors with children (Solomon, 2010). Although not a discourse analysis, through my research I show how stay-at-home fathers use ideologies about fathering to construct their fathering identities and, I argue, shift societal ideas about fathering to one of "engaged fathering. …

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