For many, societally-constructed gender roles within the dichotomy of a family unit include the father going off to work, while the mother stays home to take care of the children. While this idea still may exist in some form or another in many households, it is not the only dichotomy present in modern society. Both parents could be working. Children can be at school or in child care. Single parent households exist. Divorce, separation, and other types of life circumstance can create differences that require the formula to change.
Assessing stay-at-home fathers
It really is not that strange of a concept. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of fathers who do not work outside the home is approximately 2 million, as of 2012. This is a dramatic increase from the 1.1 million that it was, as of 1989.
This estimation is a bit different than the 2014 assessment, conducted by The Huffington Post and the University of Minnesota, which approximated that 1.9 million fathers remained at home with the kids, accounting for 16 percent of the stay-at-home parent population.
While 23 percent of these fathers stay at home because they reportedly cannot find a job, 21 percent state that their main reason for staying home is to care for their family or home. With the internet and technology being so far advanced, it is an opportunity that many men take advantage of, spending time with their children and helping them in their development.
However, this type of arrangement does not come without disadvantages. Stay-at-home fathers are less well-off financially and have lower education attainment than their working counterparts. They are twice as likely to lack a high school diploma as a working father, and nearly half of stay-at-home fathers are living in poverty.
Many men are not necessarily given much of a choice in the manner. Due to the price and availability of child care, these fathers have to do what they can in order to ensure themselves and their children the best situation possible, especially if they are a divorced custodial parent.
Alimony and child support
If a judge determines that living with the father is in the best interests of the child and the father is a stay-at-home parent, they may be entitled to alimony and child support. While one of every six custodial parents were fathers, only a quarter of custodial fathers had a legal child support agreement in place, according to fivethirtyeight.
Of the custodial fathers, 32 percent of them did not receive any of the child support that had been awarded to them in 2011, in comparison to the 25.1 percent that custodial mothers receive.
While this difference may not appear significant, the comparison between what mothers and fathers pay to one another in child support is jarring. The most common amount of child support due to custodial mothers is $4,800 annually, of which, $2,500 is typically received.
In comparison, the median amount that custodial fathers are due is $4,160, and fathers receive 40 percent of the amount that they are due. In fact, custodial fathers in the United States were owed a total of $1.7 billion.
Even though so much of what is owed to custodial fathers is outstanding, many custodial fathers find themselves in a better financial situation without the child support payments than the ones that do. Custodial fathers who do not receive the child support payments that they are due have an average household income that is $9,749 higher than fathers who do get child support. This is in comparison to custodial mothers who do not receive child support, who have a household income that is $4,132 lower than mothers that do.
However, custodial fathers do have the more likely opportunity to receive some form of support outside of cash. Mothers who do not have custody are more likely to pitch in for medical expenses, clothes, groceries, and gifts than fathers who do not have custody.
Facing questions and doubt
For custodial fathers who stay at home and raise the shared children, many face questions as to why they would make that decision or if that decision was made for them. Some might suggest that unemployment or the inability to find work may play a factor in a father’s decision. Others simply suggest that this is a way to spite the working mother and former spouse.
The reality of the situation is that whether or not a custodial parent chooses to stay-at-home and take care of the children is their decision. Explaining or rationalizing the decision is negating the deep and lasting connection that a parent shares with their child. Some custodial parents choose to make that their calling. Some custodial parents choose to work. Neither should be condemned for their decision.