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Public perceptions of at-home fatherhood

“You didn’t get a college degree to change diapers.”

“Oh, man. That’s the sweetest gig. You’re lucky.”

“Wow. (Long pause) So, what do you do all day?”

Just a few of the responses you can expect to hear when you start telling people you're an at-home dad. Unfortunately, Target doesn’t sell a reply for any of them. Believe me, I checked at Generally, your friends are going to think you’re blessed, your family is going to either going try to commit you or show support, and your neighbors will think you’re weird.

The truth is that they are all correct. Being an at-home dad is awesome, and challenging, and it isn’t what most men would consider a career. There’s no handbook for dealing with the public perceptions you’ll face, but here’s a few pieces of advice:

- Try to stay positive. No matter how you feel inside about taking on at-home fatherhood, tell everybody that you’re going to try to be the best dad you can be. And follow up with those words.

- Bite your tongue. It might be easy to go off on your aunt for thinking you’re a lunatic for giving up your career, but resist the urge to defend yourself. Whatever you say could undermine how you handle the job. Show her with your actions that you’re going to make the most of the opportunity to raise your kids well. You don’t need to defend or apologize for that.

- Avoid elaboration when you’re tipsy. For some reason, your at-home status always seems to come up at weddings or your wife’s work Christmas party. In these situations, it's possible that you’re going to tell everybody you almost punted your 1-year-old off the balcony last week. You should probably keep those thoughts to yourself.

Regardless of how you handle telling people what you do, it helps to know that you'll probably get a few blank stares, especially here in the Midwest where most older adults don't understand your decision. My parents would have rather tied me to the tree in the front yard for the day than consider the possibility of my dad stay home to raise me.

So develop a thick skin and focus mostly on your vision of your role rather than the 11 diapers you changed yesterday. Approaching your new job as a great opportunity is always the best route.


  • Terry Ott 5 years ago

    It was 20 some years ago when our son decided to stay at home with their first child, and it was an economic decision. He, 3 years younger than she, was not yet a college grad. She had her degree and a job as a dietician, with benefits, so the decision was in effect a no-brainer.

    Our son had been raised by his mother (separated), whom I married later after her divorce --- and by his grandparents, while my future wife lived with them and went to college and worked part-time. It was truly a "family circle" (of love) kind of environment. And grandpa loved kids, and had a job where he worked a lot of hours but mostly at night running a bowling alley and bar/restaurant. So, during the day our son spent a lot of time with "grampa". They bonded completely.

    The point: I think our son was preconditioned to do what he did. He saw it as a very natural thing because he had Grampa as his role model, and even his idol considering the unconditional "male love" and attention he had gott

  • Mary 5 years ago

    It is fun and desirable to stay at home with the boys, even though the economics actually forced you to do it. They will grow up before you know it! Good luck to you and your family for the New Year 2010.