Is Dad the New Mom? The Rise of Stay-At-Home Fathers
The number of stay-at-home fathers in the U.S. has tripled in the past 10 years.
June 18, 2012— -- While Erica Howard-Potter manages her job as a high-powered tax attorney, her husband Jake Howard-Potter manages the house, the chores and the couple's very active 2-year-old daughter, Skylar.
Jake, who is a sculptor by trade, is the epitome of the so-called "trophy dad." The 37-year-old stays at home and stays fit, completing triathlons one day and expertly negotiating naptime and tea parties the next. And he is not alone.
"I had a dad say to me 'that skirt is really cute' and I thought who would have imagined that two dads would be sitting at swim class saying that a skirt is cute," he said.
According to the most recent Census, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has more than doubled in the past 10 years -- up to 154,000. Yet, these at-home dads are still the exception to the traditional household and many treading in unchartered parenting waters.
Every day, Jake picks out Skylar's outfits, fixes her hair, takes her to and from activities and changes her diapers. While he tells everyone he is very proud to be a stay-at-home dad, Jake said people will give him mixed reactions, some of which seem dismissive.
"I think it's often perceived as something that people do without having a choice about it," he said. "This is something I was really excited to do."
As Jake plays with their daughter, Erica spends her day knee-deep in tax documents. This working mother said she doesn't feel resentment towards her husband, but jealousy.
"Definitely I am jealous when he calls and says 'oh she did x, y, and z' and I'm so happy that at least one of us gets to see it," she said.
According to a recent Pew study, women now place a higher importance on having a successful, high-paying career than men do. While some men might be emasculated by not making an income, Erica said Jake's lack of employment was never an issue for them.
"He was way too supportive of me going through law," she said. "After all of that support I feel like it's our law degree, that it belongs to him as much as it belongs to me. He earned it as much as I did. He does the most important job, so I would never dangle a dollar over his head."
But it's a choice that not many families choose to make and the vast majority of at-home parents are still mothers.
Many at-home dads across the country have turned to the Internet for guidance and support from each other, and now there is a growing online community. Some at-home dads set up get-togethers.
"They talk about sports and politics, but if you go in there right now they will be talking about diaper changes, sleeping challenges, so we're really talking about a lot of the stuff that moms are talking about," said Matt Schneider of "NYC Dads Group."
While all the dads "Nightline" spoke to stayed home by choice, they all admit they made less money than their wives when they were working before they made the decision to take care of the kids full time. Bryan Grossbauer was a teacher and his wife was a lawyer, making more money than he did, so he decided to become a stay-at-home dad.
"Welcome to 2012," he said. "It's just as crazy as a female saying I could never go into the workforce I am just going to stay home."
But stay-at-home dads still face some traditional stereotypes, even from family members. Greg Jobson Larkin spent 12 years serving in the Navy and now stays at home with four kids, while his wife works as the CEO of a big corporation.
"My in-laws think I'm a bum and I'm fine because I worked, already had a career," he said. "And I say, 'I am working. If it were reversed, would you say your daughter is a bum?' I'm a great father. Try to respect that."
Jake Howard-Potter said he feels "lucky" and "privileged" to be able to make their home situation work, and his wife seemed to agree.
"I am grateful that he is willing to do it," Erica said. "What is provides to our daughter is so invaluable and so I feel really grateful to him for it."
"I don't view any of this as a challenge, it's an opportunity," Jake said.