The number of American fathers who have left the work force to care for their young children has jumped 70 percent during the past 10 years. Even in dual income households, increasing numbers of fathers are assuming primary responsibility for childcare.
Some of the stay at home fathers are high powered executives who decided to take a few years off for child rearing because they were tired of devoting their whole lives to work. Some were laid off from work.
And many, like Cincinnati, Ohio salesman Tim Nabors, point to increased opportunities for women in the work force as their reason for staying home.
Mr. Nabors says when he and his wife had their first child five years ago, they were reluctant to leave the baby with someone else. "And at that time my wife's career was really taking off, and her salary was almost twice what I was making and she had all the benefits, since I was self-employed," he said. "So it was just a logical decision for me to stay home, and I wanted to stay at home too."
Now the father of two, Mr. Nabors belongs to a support group of 40 at home fathers in his community. "We get together twice a week for playgroups, for all the kids to get together," he said. "And then once a month all the Dads get together and we will go out to dinner or to a hockey game."
The number of "house husbands" like Mr. Nabors is still small, somewhere around two million. But there is evidence that the trend is growing. Local Dads' clubs like Mr. Nabors' are sprouting up around the nation and there are Internet web sites and chat rooms devoted to at home fathers and a national conference every year.
Psychologist Robert Frank stayed home to take care of his own children when they were small and has studied at-home fathers. "We think in our society that there is some innate quality that women have to take care of children," he said. "We have no research that says that is true."
Mr. Frank says his research indicates fathers are just as nurturing as mothers. In general, he says, they tend to be a little less cautious than mothers and less worried about tidiness. "I remember many times my kids would be climbing to the highest heights or running around more than some of the other kids whose moms were there," said Robert Frank. "We tend to give them more space. I find dads tend to kid their children a little more, cajole with them a little bit more."
Such differences are neither good nor bad, Mr. Frank says. They are just differences.