Survey Says! Women Are Less Likely to Support Stay-at-Home Dads

moms_dads

Survey finds men and women both support giving up their careers to be stay at home parents, but women are far less willing to let husbands stay home

How many times have we heard that men need to do more at home?

I know I’ve heard it. A lot. Online parenting sites and message boards are filled with frustrated moms lamenting the fact that their husbands spend too much time at the office and not enough on household and childcare chores. If only they’d focus more on family, change some diapers, clean the house, and cook a few meals. Hell, if only they’d pick up their socks off the living room floor, right? Whatever the case, these guys need to do SOMETHING to take the burden off poor mom who is stuck at home with the kids all day, because Lord knows she needs the support.

Well, it turns out a new survey just released by Salary.com shows a potentially ugly flip side to that argument.

Salary.com (where I work as the content manager, for full disclosure) surveyed more than 2,100 people about work and shifting gender roles in April, and a couple of the questions were about stay-at-home parenting. The results of two questions in particular raised some eyebrows, dispelling some myths regarding the attitudes of men and women toward full-time parenting and gender roles in general.

The survey asked people “If it were financially feasible, would you give up your own career to be a stay-at-home parent?” The long-held belief is that women are natural born caregivers who are automatic nurturers, while men are predisposed providers who bring home the bacon and leave the child-rearing to the lady folk.

Yet when asked if they’d give up their careers to be a stay-at-home parent, just as many men as women answered in the affirmative.

Yup, that’s right. The survey showed 57% of both men AND women expressed a desire to give up their careers to stay at home full time. Some might argue that number is high because more men are out of work these days after the recent recession, but I disagree. A study called The New Dad from the Boston College Center for Work and Family showed men are placing an increased importance on work/life balance, and making a concerted effort to be more involved at home than their fathers were. That shift in attitude is probably why the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade, according to U.S. Census statistics, and now sits at close to 200,000.

But as staggering as that number is, this next stat startled me even more.

When asked if they’d financially and emotionally support a spouse who expressed a desire to stay home and take care of the kids and house full time, 91% of men answered yes. That shouldn’t surprise too many people as the arrangement of a working dad and a stay-at-home mom has been the status quo forever and a day. But what about women? What about the moms who have been calling for men to pick up the slack on the home front? Surely they must be thrilled to hear that 91% of men seek to support a woman’s choice to stay at home AND  just as many of them want to stay home with the kids as women. It’s a no-brainer they’d be just as supportive, right?

Not exactly.

More than one-quarter of women surveyed (26%) said they fundamentally refuse to support a spouse’s decision to be a stay-at-home parent. So even though the men in this survey are just as open to sacrificing their careers as women, women are more than three times as likely not to support the same decision for men.

Why is this the case? I’m not sure, and the survey didn’t ask. But here’s what I do know:

Men are facing a similar battle attempting to make home life a priority as women did when leaving the home and entering the workforce. There’s no doubt women faced (and still face) obstacles and obstructions from a good old boys network who didn’t want to see things change in the workplace, and they made progress by being relentless and eventually gaining support from men and women already in positions of power who became allies to working women.

And just like that old boys network, I absolutely believe there are women who look at parenting and the home front as “their turf,” and don’t want to give up control. Any dad who has gone to the playground with his kid sans wife, or tried to join a real-life or online parenting community can attest to the sideways glances and disapproving stares from many of the mothers present. Sometimes it’s the very same women complaining about a lack of help who end up being opposed to the idea of stay-at-home dads. And that has to change if progress is to be made.

This survey tells me men have realized they need to make family a priority. But it also seems some women have a scorching case of “be careful what you wish for.”

—first appeared at Daddy Files

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About Aaron Gouveia

Aaron is husband to a woman far too beautiful to have married him, and father of two sons far too perfect to be his. After nearly a decade as a Boston-area journalist, he decided to actually get paid and became a content manager. When he's not griping about his beloved Boston sports teams, he's detailing life as a dad at The Daddy Files. You can follow him on Twitter (@DaddyFiles) and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Hi Aaron, it’s refreshing to see men not being blamed for women’s choices. Similar (but slightly more damning!) study results here.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1461511/Women-aspire-to-be-housewives-without-any-of-the-housework.html

    • JoAnne Dietrich says:

      That seems to be a false study. Orchid, you are stereotyping stay at home moms. I was a stay at home when my kids were young. I didn’t have a nanny or maid service. My kids are in school now. I work while they are in school. I am home when they are home. I still do not have a maid or nanny. You seem to have issues.

      • >That seems to be a false study.

        What evidence are you basing that on.

        >Orchid, you are stereotyping stay at home moms.

        No, Euro RSCG Worldwide, the world’s fifth largest advertising agency,collected data from women and published the results, I just posted a link to an article about it.

        >I was a stay at home when my kids were young. I didn’t have a nanny or maid service. My kids are in school now. I work while they are in school. I am home when they are home. I still do not have a maid or nanny.

        The study doesn’t say that you had a nanny or maid service.

        >You seem to have issues.

        I see.

        • I’m not sure if the study is flawed, but the article sure is. There’s very little actual research presented – it talks ABOUT the report but without percentages, example questions, etc. Instead, there are a whole bunch of opinionated quotes from some ‘trendspotter’ woman interpreting the results of the study for us and throwing in anecdotal data of her own friends. Not very professional or scientific – it makes me question the credibility of the information.

          I’m not defending JoAnne’s reply to you, though. She clearly took the article (and your comment) personally and responded defensively. There was no basis for her claim that you have issues – and really, EVERYONE has “issues” of some kind.

          But I do see why she would question the study you linked to.

          • She didn’t really question it, there were a few illogical statements and an attempt at a shaming tactic.

      • steve R says:

        Hey Joanne & KKZ

        Here is another misogynistic survey thats shows 75% of women say they absolutely wont date an unemployed guy. While 75% men say they’d have no problem dating unemployed women. Amazing really.

        http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/185174/study-says-75-of-women-wont-date-unemployed-men/

  2. My wife loves that I stay home with our three kids, in fact, she hopes I never return to a full-time job even when all three kids are in school.

  3. wellokaythen says:

    I’m not surprised by these numbers, except I thought the 26% was a little on the LOW side, given all the cultural messages out there about how women are better parents than men are, and given how many women don’t trust men to do a good job in the home.

    It would be really informative to see any correlation between how people who answered one way on one question tended to answer the other question. I would guess there’s a huge overlap – for example, people who didn’t want to stay at home didn’t want the other partner to stay at home either. There may be more consistency here than hypocrisy, however hard that is to believe.

    The people surveyed were not all parents, nor were they all people who wanted children, so that might have a role to play in these stats. In general, about 20% of women don’t or won’t have children, so they may be answering the question in a different way than it was intended. They may have said “No” because they were thinking “I don’t want my husband to be a stay-at-home dad, because I don’t want to be a mom in the first place.”

    That doesn’t explain the discrepancy between the 57% and the 26%, though….

  4. I don’t know why it would shock or surprise anyone that women would feel this way. Men have known this for a long time. A wife with or without children, decides to stay at home, it’s a choice. Husbands with or without children decide to stay at home are bums, lazy, etc.

    @Pete, curious ….What % of household chores does your wife take responsibility for. Back in the old days, I was looked at as a jerk because my stay at home wife did most of the household duties while I worked 50+ hours a week. Don’t get me wrong Pete, I admire you for your role. Through the years I’ve known quite a few men who would have loved to take that role. But as I’m sure you’ve seen many times, women take the position that even though “he” works, “he” should still be taking some of the burden off “her.”

    • I agree,
      Lmfao… In other news water is wet, professional wrestling is rigged, & the president is Black.

  5. A family suffers on a woman’s salary alone as women earn less than men, maybe some of these women are concerned about that

    • When a woman works full time, her salary doesn’t suffer. Its getting married and then working part, flexi-time or being a stay at home on the strength of the full time workers pay check, that causes the wage gap.

      • Jameseq says:

        good points, plus a couple of years ago there were studies saying that women in their twenties were now earning about 10% more than their peers

        • wellokaythen says:

          And, when the numbers are adjusted for the number of hours worked, much of the pay gap disappears.

          • John Anderson says:

            I’ve also never seen a study that accounted for overtime hours. Last study I saw men worked 42 hours to women’s 37.5, It should be calculated on 43 hours. They also don’t account for shift differential. Although I don’t know where that will ultimately fall (artificially inflating men or women’s earnings), the difference in pay isn’t necessarily due to gender discrimination.

    • steve R says:

      Selina

      The fundamental reason is that women abhor the idea of having a man financially dependent upon them…much more than vice versa.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    If you really want to measure how mothers feel about raising children, look at what they’re willing to pay babysitters or daycare workers. If it’s really such a crucial, highly valuable job to have, one would expect them to pay babysitters a whole lot more money than they do. They must assume that the job isn’t all that hard or all that important. Time with your kids is absolutely priceless, except for when you pay a teenager minimum wage to do it.

    • Will Best says:

      Assuming you aren’t be sardonic I feel sorry for your children.

      Your children don’t need to be engaged in active learning or “healthy” pursuits 100% of the time. You are paying the teenager to do two things
      1) prevent your kids from harming themselves or your property
      2) not steal from you

      How much is such a job worth? If you only have 1 kid it isn’t even worth min wage, which is good that nobody is reporting anything to anybody.

  7. I’m kind of curious why we’re not flipping that stat the other way – if 26% of women are staunchly opposed to their spouses becoming SAHDs, that means 74% of women are FOR it (assuming there was not a neutral option).

    91% of men and 74% of women would support their opposite-gender spouses becoming stay-at-home parents. Yes, there still a decent gap there that’s worth talking about, but I’d say those stats are pretty optimistic!

    Let’s not make a mountain out of a gopher mound. (26% is considerably more than a molehill, but still no mountain.)

    • KC Krupp says:

      I agree. The 74% of women supporting the idea of the stay at home dads is actually a lot higher than I expected. That’s exciting.

      • Its not saying that 74% supported the idea if stay at home dads. It said that 26% would fundamentally refuse, so of the remaining of 74% there are various opinions ranging from supportive to somewhere short of fundamentally opposed.

        • Taking a second look, it would seem that 70% of the remainder said they would be supportive, leaving only 4% somewhere in the middle, or neutral to the idea. Like I said, the gap between 70 and 91 is worth talking about, but well past the majority of women surveyed were supportive. The 26% against it hardly seems *that* significant.

          I sense that there are some men who are just itching to be able to call out women on having double-standards or being unfair somehow, just itching to say “Aha! You SAY you want men to do more around the home/with the kids, but won’t support them being a full-time at-home parent! You liars!” And then something about having cake and eating it. Hence the desire to zoom in on that 26%, even though it was clearly a minority opinion in this study, and interpret it as some selfish, sexist attitude.

          How much do you want to bet that those 26% of women are paired with ‘traditional’ men who would agree that the man in the relationship should not be the one to stay at home? It’s only an oppressive attitude if the man desperately wants to leave his career to stay at home and she’s saying NO on principle. If he’s happy having a career, and she’s happy either staying at home or also working, then what’s the problem?

          • Its no different that just about any other stat where the miniority gets the attention. (Look at rape for example. vast majority of men are not rapists, but that doesn’t spot them from being treated like they are the majority.)

          • I get the sense that you believe that men should not talk about women the way women commonly speak about men.

            Why do you believe that women are entitled to not have their double standards spoken about?

            Women are people, like everyone else.

            • KC Krupp says:

              I definitely think that we should not talk about women the way women speak about men. I also wish that some women would not talk about men the way they do. We don’t like the way some women talk about us, so why do the same negative talk back about them? It’s just mean and makes people dislike you more.

              I don’t think this means letting people be entitled to double standards, I think that this means being tactful in the way we approach people’s faults and focus on how we can win friends rather than criticizing and condemning. We can frame the same story as:

              “3/4 of women say they would support Stay at Home Dads! Now let’s see how we can get the last 1/4 support the idea of Stay at Home Dads just like 91% of men would support them if they wanted to come home.”

              If all you do is focus on the negative, you end up reinforcing the negative. Isn’t that a common complaint about portraying men as violent? By focusing on the negative it just reinforces the cultural ideology. So why do focus on the negative and reinforce the idea that women are less likely than men to support stay at home dads? All that will do is reinforce gender norms.

    • ThomasM says:

      According to the linked article 70% of women compared to 91% of men would support a stay at home spouse. And 26% of women compared to 8% of men refused to support a stay at home spouse. So, there must be a third option which explains the missing percentage.

      I agree with your sentiment. 91% compared to 70% doesn’t sound too bad, when you take into account that it’s still a bit unusual for a dad to stay at home. I suppose in time the numbers will converge.

      In reality, for the majority of couples the decision who stays at home is driven by financial considerations.

  8. Shock. And. Awe.

  9. JoAnne dietrich says:

    Couples should be discussing this befoe they get married. They need to communicate their ideals for family life. Should one parent stay home or should both work? How will you divide childcare and domestic duties? Both people may need to make some compromises. Every couple is different. find what works for you.

  10. I am so shocked, I bet we’ll learn water is wet too! :P Any idea on the stats for the rest of the women, are some ok with it?

  11. Another interesting stat from the article is about my generation:

    “Interestingly, Millennials (born after 1980) are the least likely to give up their careers with half reporting they’d do so, compared to 59% of Generation X (born 1965-1979) and 60% of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964).”

    A large part of the reason my husband and I (both born in 1987) decided we want to remain childfree is that we are both pursuing dreams of running our own businesses oriented around our passions (him: brewing beer; me: teaching creative writing). We also both want to do as much traveling as we can. When we look at our 10-year plan there is simple no room for kids, and neither of us is even tempted to put aside our dreams for the sake of having a family. The stats would indicate that this attitude isn’t unique to the two of us.

    “Millennials” covers a wide range of ages, though. It would include my 30-year-old brother in law, who DID put aside his career to be the at-home parent, and my 22-year-old brother, who just graduated college and has barely set foot on a career path. I do wonder if/how the lower end of the age range might be skewing the metrics – I can’t imagine too many fresh college graduates are eager to sacrifice a career that they just put years of work and thousands of dollars into launching so they can start a family while they’re still young. Ask them again in 10 years and see if the generational attitudes hold after they’re more established – that would be really interesting.

    • ogwriter says:

      @KKZ; We are missing the point, which is: WHY WAS THERE ANY RESISTANCE FROM WOMEN AT ALL, EVER!? Which leads to; why is still resistance today? This refusal to address the root causes of the ridiculous, double standards, conflicting, mixed messages, clear resistance and the fu7ked up consequences caused by women’s lack of self awareness, is TOO stupid for words. Why in the world would anyone listen to someone who doesn’t even understand themselves, their needs, their desires?

      What we should be telling every man before they become a SAHD is there are a host of hidden minefields that could blow up his sense of self, fracture his trust and confidence in the integrity of his partners words and shatter his identity..
      I know because as a SAHD 30 years ago, these things happened to me. We should be honest with the next generation of SAHD’S so that they be better prepared to deal with the results of the choices, good and bad, they made.

      • You ask “why was there any resistance … at all”. Well, I would resist if my partner wanted to be a stay-at-home-parent, because that would lead to me being less involved in parenting – and, frankly, I want to be involved with someone who has something to do beyond the home. It’s just not a model I want for my relationship.

        • ogwriter says:

          @Lars: You miss my point, which to question and illuminate the problems associated with switching certain traditional gender roles, in this case a man assuming primary care for the children. As evidenced by many of the comments by men, there are some feelings shared by them that suggest for some men the transition has been difficult. They are confused by what they see as contradictory behavior, and, rightly so they want answers.

      • Will Best says:

        Women are less attracted to men that aren’t providing. Hell even Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are married to men who are in the top 0.1%, so its not like the Queens of Silicon Valley are settling for anything less than princes.

        Its biological.

  12. As a number of people have said, a quarter of women fundamentally opposed to me looking after the babies instead of being their work monkey is way less than I thought, and I’m overall very encouraged by this. That’s not to take away from the overall message that there is a fight to be fought in this area – but overall it seems attitudes really are shifting, and I think the overall message of the 75% figure which I hope a lot of quite embattled men take away is that women aren’t the enemy, rather the roles we have been historically cast in are.

    • Will Best says:

      Its probably double that, its just 26% are being honest about it. Marriages where the woman is the breadwinner are 40% more likely to end in divorce, and I seriously doubt even half that increase is men not being able to “handle it”

  13. 26% opposed is really a pretty low number, considering how much of a departure from default assumptions it is for a man to stay at home and raise children. Not really the “gotcha” implied by the title.

  14. 74%? Thats fucking high!!!

  15. steve R says:

    This survey seems to have lit a firecracker up many women’s butts.

    I’m surprized people need to survey to know this. It seems to me (and to the vast majority of men out there) an unmistakable reality, a given truth, a writing on the wall, and what goes

    without saying.

    Women who would support SAHD’s are much much fewer in number than men willing to support SAHM’s.

    Listen Jennifer, Laura, Kate, Gloria, etc…if you are one of them or if you happen to know 7 other women who support SAHD’s; you are still exceptions to the rule, you are still a small

    minority in the OVERALL STATISTICS. Ok ?

  16. steve R says:

    Here is another misogynistic survey that shows 75% of women say they absolutely wont date an unemployed guy. While 75% men say they’d have no problem dating unemployed women. Amazing really.

    http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/185174/study-says-75-of-women-wont-date-unemployed-men/

    Why do they do surveys that put women in a negative light?

    • Will Best says:

      Do you realize that you are saying that if a question makes women look bad when they answer it, it shouldn’t be asked?

      I am curious about what you think of science. Should scientists only run experiments that confirm your assumptions?

  17. I think this post is making a strawman argument. It is contrasting women “lamenting the fact that their husbands spend too much time at the office and not enough on household and childcare chores” with women not wanting to their partner to be SAHD. But those are not the same thing, and not really comparable. It is perfectly possible to want your partner to share 50/50 household chores, or any other fraction other than 100/0, while not wanting a family structure with a stay-at-home parent. There is no contradiction there.

    So, maybe whatever difference the survey registers is simply an indication that more men than women are fine with the “traditional” family structure (one breadwinner + one stay-at-home parent), while more women than men desire a family structure with two incomes and shared responsibility for childcare and household?

    I certainly belong to that second camp. If my partner wanted to be a SAHM, I wouldn’t be very hot on the idea. Not at all. To me, that would come with a risk that I would have to sped more time away from home (to make up for the lost income), and as a result less contact with my children and less parenting responsibility . Not a good deal for me, or for my kids. This is not about “wanting to support a SAH parent” – it’s about rejecting the model.

    • JoAnne Dietrich says:

      Lars, you do make some good points. There are some risks to having a stay at home parent. When women leave their profession for several years, it is hard to find employment. They may not get a job when they return to the workforce. Men that are breadwinners, lose out on family life.

      • Thanks, JoAnne. Now, I’m not going to tell people what to do. I’m sure there people who love being SAH parents, and that there are people who love for their partner to be one. Great, go for it. But I also think there are perfectly valid reasons to not want to do that setup. Wanting a dual-income household is a valid choice (and a choice that in my view work well only if parenting and household chores are also shared)

  18. Terence says:

    Woman have three main choices in life, work full time, work part time or stay at home full time. Men also have three choices, got out and work, go out and work or go out and work – Dr Warren Farrel

    • JoAnne Dietrich says:

      Terence, there are many women who do not have the option to be a stay at home mom. They can not afford to stay home.

      • Will Best says:

        That isn’t entirely true, people just don’t want to live in the manner single income might require. But except for a few zip codes you can get by on modest income.

        Its not single income but there was a Mexican family that lived behind us in Chicago living in a 4 BR house, but it was multi-generational. So grandparents, 2 brothers & wives, a sister, and 6 children. The wives and the grandma stayed at home while the men and the sister worked. How many American born and raised people would want to share 2200 sq ft with 12 other people?

  19. I think my biggest concern with supporting a stay at home dad is that he would never be able to get back to the workforce and I would have a financially dependent adult to support for the rest of my life! Sorry, but that is NOT what I want in a relationship. I don’t understand why men would want that either, frankly.

    My mom was a SAHM and while I’m sure it had its stresses and challenges when we were kids, by the time we were in high school, my mom was searching for things to do to fill her day. She had tons of hobbies and pleasant activities. Once we went to college, her life was pretty darn nice. Shopping, watching home decorating shows and visiting friends all day long, while my dad worked 60 hour weeks as an engineer. Yes, she kept the house clean and cooked dinner, but not a big deal with only 2 adults in the house. Definitely not comparable to my dad’s job. She dabbled in returning to work but had no marketable skills. She tried working in offices briefly through a temp agency but she hated it and that quickly ended.

    I’m not trying to soud too negative about my mom, but she had a pretty nice life from my perspective as someone who has always worked full time.

    • Will Best says:

      Perhaps this might help. My grandma stopped raising children when she was about 40, but my grandpa retired at 66. However, my grandma didn’t stop doing housework until she was 83. So yeah as a SAH she had it easy after the kids were raised, but she didn’t retire until she was physically incapable of doing it anymore.

      Of course, that was greatest generation. What I am witnessing in the boomer retirement is the retiring person gets slapped with all or a share of the housework.

      Also, the logic behind spousal support is that the SAH parent enables the working parent to focus on their career and advance in a manner they wouldn’t be able to without having the free maid/cook/nanny/butler. Therefore, while you view the SAH parent as dependent, they are actually enabling you to succeed.

  20. ogwriter says:

    @Will: Actually,Americans used to live exactly the Mexican family you described.Shipping grandma and grandpa off to nursing homes is quite new and is related to post-industrialization.

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