Balancing Act: Fathers settle in at home
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On any given weekday, you might find Jameson Mercier on his couch with his two daughters on his lap reading them their favorite books over and over -- not exactly the picture of a paternal provider most people envision.
But Mr. Mercier, of Plantation, Fla., father of 3-year-old Asrielle and 2-year-old Tamar, said he could never work a traditional 40-hour-a-week job. "I wouldn't get to spend this kind of time with my kids or do any of the things with them that I do now."
While fathers still represent a relatively small percentage of at-home parents, 3.4 percent, the number is significant because it has doubled in the past decade. Experts predict the percentage of at-home dads will continue to rise as more wives snap up high-paying jobs and families make pragmatic decisions about who will take on child care responsibilities.
In a new study, researchers from the Boston College Center for Work & Family interviewed more than 30 stay-at-home dads and found many are in that role not because they were laid off unexpectedly, but because they chose to take on the job. They also found that the men in the study "The New Dad: Right at Home," ages 28 to 48, varied in backgrounds but shared the commonality that their wives typically held jobs with higher earning potential, such as physicians, lawyers and business executives.
"These at-home fathers greatly enable their wives to pursue their careers in a much more assertive fashion without the limitation that virtually all working mothers experience," said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Center for Work & Family.
Also, more married men are becoming the primary caregiver, which means they may contribute some to the family income and still serve as the regular source of child care. That number has risen to 32 percent from 26 percent a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census.
"A lot of men are doing a lot of the child care, more than people believe is happening," said Al Watts, president of the National At-Home Dad Network and a stay-at-home dad to four children. "These dads are happy doing it. They think it's awesome to be involved in their kids' lives."
First Published July 8, 2012 12:00 am