Although There Are More Stay-At-Home Dads These Days, They Still Struggle With Isolation

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According to a June 2018 article in The New York Times, the number of men in the United States who are full-time, stay-at-home dads has risen steadily in recent years, from a million or so in 1984 to roughly double that in 2014. Similarly, a study from the Pew Research Center reveals that 17% of all stay-at-home parents in 2016 were fathers, up from 10% in 1989. This means that today, 1 out of 15 at-home parents is a dad.

With this many dads staying home to raise their kids, you’d think they’d have fewer problems finding playdates, forming dad support groups and being accepted (by both moms and dads) for their role of primary caregiver. However, at Westchester Health Pediatrics, that’s not what we’re seeing.

Feeling isolated is common for stay-at-home dads

Peter Richel, MD, FAAP

A lot of the dads in our practice tell us that a large percentage of people still aren’t comfortable with a man being the full-time caregiver. Lining up playdates can be hard, they say, because stay-at-home moms often feel more comfortable hanging out with other women. Plus, their husbands often don’t want them socializing one-on-one with another man, even if it’s in a public place like a park, swimming pool or music class.

Another factor contributing to feelings of isolation is that men tend to be loners, in life and in parenting. Women are better at finding other moms to connect with, enrolling their kids in activities and setting up playdates. For many men, this can be something they’re not really good at.

At WHP, we’re here to help

Although there are more stay-at-home dads than ever before, it’s still a tough gig. We understand and we’re here to help. As well as publishing a blog on this topic, we’d like to offer at-home dads some tips, advice and words of support as they get up every day and tackle this rewarding, demanding and often lonely job.

5 tips to help you make it through this stage (that, thankfully, will not last forever)

  1. Connect with other stay-at-home dads

Finding a group of local dads is one of the most important ways to combat the stress and loneliness of being home with the kids. Hopefully there are other stay-at-home dads in your area—you just don’t know where they are. To find them, check out the Find a Dad Group page on the National At-Home Dad Network or visit Dadstayshome.com.

  1. Get out of the house

Sitting at home all day, especially when your kids are really young, only adds to feelings of isolation. Instead, get out and about. Make it part of your daily routine to take your child for a walk (even in rain and snow), go to the library, participate in a music/movement class, meet a friend or fellow parent for coffee, or visit an indoor play space.

  1. Have a clear understanding of what your duties are

Know exactly what “taking care of the kids” entails. Cooking dinner, cleaning the house, doing laundry, running errands, helping with homework…how many of these are you responsible for? Discussing expectations with your partner up-front will reduce conflict and resentment later on.

  1. Ask for help when you need it

As much as you might think you can raise kids all on your own, this can lead to unhealthy levels of stress. For your own mental health (and the happiness of your kids), think about hiring a cleaning person to help with housework or a sitter so you can get to the gym or go to a movie for a break. Feel like you’re losing it? Call other dads—they know what you’re going through. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed, we urge you to seek professional help to help you get through the particularly tough times.

  1. Try to appreciate these years, because they’re fleeting

You may be tired of hearing it but kids really do grow up fast. One day they’re in diapers and the next, they’re out of the house and off on their own. We know it’s really hard when you’re exhausted and your little one will not go to sleep no matter what you do, but try to savor these times. Remember, they’re precious and won’t last forever.

Helpful articles we recommend

As well as tips and advice for stay-at-home dads, count on us for all kinds of information to help you raise your kids.

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Whether you’re raising teenagers, middle schoolers, toddlers or newborns, we’ve got years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re ready to help you with yours. Please come in and see us.

Want to know more? Got questions? Come see us!

Whether you’re doing okay being the primary caregiver or are completely overwhelmed, at Westchester Health Pediatrics we’re ready with expert advice and guidance to help you raise happy, healthy kids. Make an appointment to come see us. We’ll take as long as you need to get your questions answered and to help you in any way we can. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

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By Peter Richel, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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About the Author: ML Ball