Is there a Dad Divide to go with the Mommy Wars?
Whether they say it out loud or acknowledge it at all, that work-home divide traditionally reserved for the Mommy Wars can also rear between dads who go off to the office every day and the kind in the trenches with the kids.
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THE STEREOTYPESSkip to next paragraph
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It's been nearly 30 years since Michael Keaton was that guy on screen, setting the kitchen on fire and making his kids miserable in "Mr. Mom," but the lingering moniker feels more like yesterday for Weckerlein and other at-home dads.
"I hate that phrase, Mr. Mom. I can't imagine my wife going into the office and saying, 'Hi everyone, it's Mrs. Dad,'" said Dan Zevin, a humorist, at-home dad to two and author of a new book, "Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad."
In Boston, 32-year-old Nolan Kido is no stereotype. He's the exhausted at-home dad of an 11-week-old daughter as his wife completes her dental education. He deferred work on his doctoral degree in accounting after doing some recession-era math: his earning power versus her earning power in the face of more than $360,000 in student loans.
"At the very beginning they were a little weirded out, like what do we talk about, what's the common themes, but now the impression that I get more is actually jealousy," he said of his working dad friends. "It's not, like, mean kinds of things but just, 'Oh, I wish I could stay home' or 'Oh, I'd love to go to that park.'"
The number of at-home dads who are primary caregivers for their children reached nearly 2 million in 2010, or one in 15 fathers, according to one estimate. Al Watts, president of the National At-Home Dad Network, believes a more accurate count is about 7 million, using broader definitions that include part-time workers. That amounts to one-third of married fathers in the U.S.
Most, he said, want to be there, as opposed to the kind who never thought about it until the ax fell on their careers. And more often than women, they do earn a bit of income at the same time, he said.
COULD THEY DO IT?
Watts, in Omaha, has been home with kids for a decade, since the oldest of his four was a baby. He sees a subtle shift in attitudes emanating from working dads.
"Eight years ago, one of my wife's customers, when he found out that I was an at-home dad he said, 'Oh you know, I'd really love to do that.' I knew what he really meant was that he assumed he could then just hang out at home and play video games and watch TV and not have to go to work anymore," Watts said.
"Now when I have those conversations, they're generally like, 'You know, I really wish I could do that. But then they find out I have four kids and they're like, 'Well, I couldn't do that!'"