Tag Archives: stay-at-home fathers

Unemployed Men Have Higher Divorce Rate

While our culture’s views about women working have changed substantially in recent decades, our views about men working appear not to have budged very much. Case in point, a study of more than 3,600 couples published recently in the American Journal of Sociology, which links unemployed men with higher divorce rates.

Despite the fact that more men are choosing to be stay-at-home dads while their wives work, this particular study surprised me in saying it’s still not culturally acceptable for men to be the primary care givers. Men who are not working face a greater likelihood that their wife would leave them. In addition, the men themselves were more likely to leave the relationship.

Whether a woman worked or not had no bearing on her husband’s likelihood of leaving her. However, a working woman who was very unhappy in her marriage was more likely to begin divorce proceedings than if she was unemployed. Researchers explain that these women have the resources that allow them to leave, but they said the employment itself wasn’t the source of tension.

So, there’s a bit of a dichotomy between working men and women. The reasons aren’t clear, although one possibility was that unemployed men are more likely to suffer from depression. And our cultural expectations of men appear to be still wrapped up on them being providers. (However, American women’s have outpaced men in education and income growth during the last 40 years. Read Who’s Marrying for Money?)

The study, reported in Time Magazine, is consistent with one from Ohio State, which also showed that men who don’t have a job have higher rates of leaving the relationship, and that their partners also have higher rates of leaving the relationship.

I have known some very competent stay-at-home dads with professional wives who are the breadwinners. I know it can work for many families, so I don’t want to come off as against this sort of arrangement. I think the knowledge of this research makes it clear that a couple who chooses to go this route will be going against the cultural grain and should be prepared to discuss the ongoing challenges. In addition, they should both be aware of the risk of depression, possibly from loss of social network or feeling overwhelmed by child-rearing responsibilities. They should also work hard to make the marriage a priority in the family.

One note, I don’t think the research differentiates between the men who were unemployed by choice and those who were unemployed by circumstance. It seems the latter group would have higher rates of depression.

See a summary of the study here.

Do you or your partner have experience being a stay-at-home parent? Do you think the challenges are different for men than for women? Do you think society’s views on men working are outdated or appropriate?

Related Posts:
Can women breadwinners have it all?
Are househusbands the ultimate status symbol?
Women breadwinners are more likely to be cheated on.

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Are Househusbands the Ultimate Status Symbol?

During the recent recession, three men lost their jobs for every woman who lost hers. As a consequence, this year became the first year women comprise the majority in the workplace. Forty percent of mothers are now the households’ primary breadwinners, and approximately 143,000 stay-at-home dads care for the kids full-time while their wives work, says a recent Marie Claire article, “When roles reverse: The rise of the stay-at-home husband.”

The magazine profiled several dads who are stay-at-home parents, and discussed their challenges and successes. One thing is clear, gender roles in the family are changing in the U.S. Even Pampers is targeting male consumers, with nearly 70 percent of dads reporting that they change as many diapers as their wives.

“Just as having a stay-at-home wife carries cachet in certain male corporate circles, having a househusband may, in a way, be the ultimate status symbol for the successful professional woman,” says writer Hillary Stout. She backs that up with women who are elated to be spoiled with homemade lunches and dinners by their husbands.

Nearly 150 support groups exist around the country to help dads who care for their children full-time. Challenges of leaving the workplace to stay at home include feeling emasculated at times, having a bruised ego, hearing incorrect assumptions from others, or having a lack of friends at home. Let’s face it, stay-at-home mothers socialize and help each other all the time. A man in the mix is often out of place. For example, some men said stay-at-home moms were unkind or judgmental toward them. In some cases, they develop too close of a relationship with other moms, and may hear moms complaining about their husbands or talking about men as if they were “one of the girls.”

Therapist Karen Gail Lewis, PhD, says sexual issues can easily arise from the “radical role reversal,” with the wife initially drawn to the nurturing male, but later judging him as weak.  Lewis noted she’s had client families with stay-at-home fathers who have had affairs; in one family, the wife had an affair with a male coworker, and in the other, the husband had an affair with a stay-at-home mom.

On the other hand, many families are finding the revised roles work extremely well for their families. The wives love their work, the husbands enjoy staying at home, and they remain flexible to change if needed. I know some stay-at-home dads who fall in this category, and wouldn’t trade their parenting job for a high-paying one. It can be hard for the mother who is used to being the more active parent, but for some families it works quite well.

While my husband has always worked, I consider him an equal parent. He is much better at managing birthday parties and play dates and has always shared diapering, bathing, bedtime routine and volunteering on classroom field trips. Short of childbirth and breastfeeding, he does it all. (Well, the laundry is my domain.) Most of my friends’ husbands are equally well equipped as fathers. So, one thing married couples of our generation seem to have achieved is the gift of two active, prepared parents who are both capable of caring for the children’s needs. Lucky kids.

Do you think it matters if the man or woman is the primary caregiver of children? Or do you believe traditional gender roles are best?

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