Really big! Well, for us. (And you know what we’re like…)
Because according to the latest employment figures, 10% of the nation’s childcare is now done by men – dads, that is – while mum goes out to work. That’s 227,000 in old money. And while some are doing it reluctantly for reasons like redundancy, others are embracing it as a positive lifestyle choice best-suited to the circumstances of their family.
As I did, five years ago.
But the really big news, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that ‘Mr Mom’ is dead; we dads now have the confidence and skills to do it our way. (Which doesn’t need to resemble the scarier moments of Three Men and a Baby either!) The new breed of stay-at-home dad ‘puts a distinctly masculine stamp on child-rearing and home life’ says columnist Sue Shellenbarger.
She goes on: ‘At-home dads aren’t trying to be perfect moms, says a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Instead, they take pride in letting their children take more risks on the playground, compared with their spouses. They tend to jettison daily routines in favor of spontaneous adventures with the kids. And many use technology or DIY skills to squeeze household budgets, or find shortcuts through projects and chores, says the study…’
Of course, not everything is hunky-dory in house-husband land. Some dads feel emasculated adopting a role still traditionally thought of as women’s work. I once took part in a TV debate with a dad who thought like that, and was so depressed about the whole stay-at-home experience he went back to work as soon as he could.
In my case though, I’m happy and even happier not to be in such a tiny (almost invisible) minority. I’m not saying everything in the garden is rosy. The money’s rubbish, but it’s still a real privilege being a hands-on parent for so long. There are some things money can’t buy and childhood’s one of them.
And we’re lucky. With a bit of belt-tightening we can manage on one salary and I’ve never been the kind of bloke to feel defined by my occupation. I don’t mind being a ‘kept’ man; that old-fashioned macho pride thing wouldn’t last long in the mums-and-toddler groups anyway.
But what I like best of all out of today’s news is the fact that, when they start school and I go back to work I’ll be able to singalonga ol’ blue eyes himself and say…
I might not have been the best, I might have need more rest and in five years I never did get round to doing the dusting but…
I did it my way!