Early on in elementary school, my dad went from having a job with a long commute into Atlanta every morning, with monthly international travel, to a job where he solely worked from home. My mom was a stay-at-home mom at the time, so suddenly my brother and I had both parents at home with us.
While he was not a stay-at-home dad, I loved that my dad’s office was right there with us, just steps down our long and skinny house’s hallway. On the very rare occasion, he would even let me play on his computer!
Having grown up this way, I love that more and more families are finding their own rhythm of what works for them. However, not everyone is as open to non-traditional setups. The idea that a woman could be the sole breadwinner, while the man takes on the brunt of the child-rearing, is still a tough concept for a lot of people to swallow. Although stay-at-home fathers now account for 16 percent of stay at home parents, their family decisions are often the source of outside scrutiny, or at the very least, questions.
It’s often the working women that are married to stay-at-home dads that are faced with the awkward reactions of this set-up. We asked them what people typically say to them, and here’s what they said:
What do strangers say when they find out your husband stays at home with the kids?
“I could never handle that.” —Kathleen
“That’s wonderful that you’re able to do that.” —Amy
“Typically people are surprised. Then they comment about how lucky I am to have a husband willing to take care of our kids. I don’t mind those sorts of comments, because I think they mean it as a compliment. But I often think it’s indicative of a mentality that childrearing is primarily the mother’s role, and the father being the primary caretaker is seen as ‘second best’.” —Kat
“Hasn’t he found a job yet?” —Laura
“I think we have had positive reactions overall, though usually after a surprised pause.” —Natalie
“When we moved into our new house, a neighbor came up to us when we were outside in the front yard. He introduced himself and asked my husband what he did for a living. At the time, he was taking a couple of classes, so he answered ‘student’. The neighbor responded, “Then how did you afford to buy this house?” Mind you, I am standing right there.” —Diana
What questions have friends or family asked about your husband being a SAHD?
“Is he happy? Is he fulfilled? Does he have enough free time? I don’t think anyone is critical and there haven’t been any questions that I thought were demeaning or repetitive. However, I don’t think they would ask the same questions if our roles were reversed. “
“It’s more of what I see in the media than personally. I hate that successful moms are asked about their home life, how they balance work and family. Men are never asked that.” —Anna
“Friends and family can be worse than people that I don’t know. Most of my family ask—again and again—why he isn’t working. I’ve had friends tell me that they know how hard it must be for me since I can’t be a SAHM (not my words!). Family tells me to make him get a job. I wish they would be more supportive of both of us.” —Diana
“What did he do before he was a SAHD?” —Heidi
“How do you afford it?” —Kathleen
“Family questions me more than my social groups or work colleagues regarding my husband’s presence in the home currently… When we travel and visit, I will hear the same questions about the lack of employment over and over again.” —Laura
How do you find yourself answering questions about your husband being a stay-at-home dad?
“I tend to describe it as something that ‘has worked for us.'” —Heidi
“I say it works for us and that my daughters are close to both of us.” —Anna
“I travel for work, and my husband and kids travel with me, so usually we get more questions on how that works. I think many don’t understand why we do this, but we would rather have our family together than have most of the family at home while mom is gone all week.”