Increasing number of papa bears stay in the den

January 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

There’s an old stereotype of the family: Mom stays home with the kids while dad goes off to work to support his wife and children.

That stereotype doesn’t necessarily apply anymore. More dads are staying home while moms are the family breadwinners, says Kwantlen sociology instructor Seema Ahluwalia.

Those are fathers like Chad Skelton, reporter for the Vancouver Sun and current stay-at-home father. He’s in the middle of an unpaid leave of absence from his job to stay home with his 18-month-old son.

“I’ve actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would,” said Skelton. “I was worried that as the year got closer, that I might find it boring, and there are moments, but I really enjoy it a lot.”

Skelton, 33, has been home with his son since March and although he loves it, his role at home still isn’t understood by some older men.

“People my age are completely fine with it, but people, especially older men, from my parents’ generation, assume that it would be boring to stay home for a year,” he said. “They always ask me what I do with my time.”

His response is that he takes his son out to places in the city such as
the aquarium or the park on nice days. And his son has two naps a day, giving Skelton some time to work on the weekly parenting column that he writes for the Sun or to mark papers from the class he teaches one night a week.

Not all men take to stay-at-home parenting like Skelton does, though.

“I’ve got a friend who works at one of the police departments and under his contract, he can take three months off once he has a kid, but he’s not sure if he’s going to because he might get teased.”

Ahluwalia, who has been teaching for 10 years, finds the worries of a stay-at-home dad not being a “real man” common.

“We hear a lot from stay-at-home dads about the stereotype of not being treated like a real man because they’re not getting a real job,” she said.

“Men still feel that pressure about not being the breadwinner. It’s one of those stereotypes that chips away at their masculinity.”

Ahluwalia said that after 40 years of cultural changes, before which a father as the stay-at-home parent was “utterly inconceivable,” roles have changed into more of a whocan-actually-do-it-right-now style of parenting.

“With the economy becoming more and more expensive over the years, that has forced the ways of parenting to change. Sometimes, the woman has a better job and, for that family, it might be a better solution with the dad staying home,” said Ahluawalia.

Ahluwalia is a working mother and her husband stays at home with their child for most of the day. She and her husband are known as “radical unschoolers,” which means they don’t send their child to public school. They let their son “learn about the world around him in ways that engage him.”

Her husband, a ceremonial leader in his Lakota First Nation, takes their seven-year-old son around to all his lessons, which include piano, horseback riding and art.

“My husband and I see ourselves less as teachers and more like facilitators. Our son wouldn’t be able to have the schooling experience he’s having if my husband didn’t stay at home,” she said.

Statistics show that stay-at-home dads are becoming more common in Canada.
“In 1976, there were 36,000, whereas now, there are 77,000,” said Ahluwalia.

With more women getting into the workforce, she said, it’s not as easy for a man to graduate from school, get the ideal job and live the stereotype.