Father’s Day did not become a national holiday until 1972, decades after a day was designated for moms. And it is still pales in comparison to Mother’s Day; the National Retail Foundation reports that just 64% of consumers plan to buy a card for their dad, while 81% bought one for their mom. The theory is that folks just have more warm and fuzzies about their mums. That led me to wonder if this might shift as more kids grow up with active fathers, or even full-time fathers.
By one measure, 80% of American adults say it is perfectly fine for a man to be a stay-at-home parent, but there is still a strong social stigma against it. In a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, fully 51% of respondents said children are better off if their mother is home and doesn’t hold a job. By comparison, only 8% said children are better off if their father is home and doesn’t work. This may be because most of the 2 million full-time dads in America are not home by choice, but because they cannot find jobs or are disabled. About half of full-time dads live in poverty, compared with only 8% of working dads, in part due to the fact that 58% of stay-at-home dads have only a high school diploma or less.
But what about the 21% of men who chose to forgo their own careers to be more present in their children’s lives? The average American dad takes two weeks off work when his child is born, in large part due to the fact that only 14% of U.S. employers offer paid paternity leave. [As an aside, I have been an employee of the U.S. federal government for 5+ years and am not entitled to a single day of paid maternity leave; but that rant shall be saved for another post.] Yet most dads who choose to raise their children, even for just a few months or years, will tell you it is the most rewarding thing they have ever done. Kids generally feel the same – like the 9-year-old in this Boston Globe column who said the best day of his life was when his dad announced he was going to stay home to be with his kids.
In my house, there is no doubt that my son receives immeasurable benefits from having his dad around every day. They have a bond unlike any I believed possible between a 30-something man and a 16-month-old non-verbal boy. They understand each other and interact on a very deep level, while always being extremely loving and playful. My husband’s skill in drawing out my son’s curiosity, his patience with my son’s naughtiness, and his ability to get our son to sleep when I have given up never ceases to amaze me. Both my son and I are lucky to have him!