Is it time to re-think the “stay-at-home dad” label?

I wrote the op-ed below around Father’s Day. I was inspired by how much (positive!) coverage I was seeing of men as Dads in the media, but I also wanted to question how the way we talk about men as fathers limits the way we think about and respond to them.

Twenty years ago, the stay-at-home father was a curiosity, a spectacle, viewed with a mixture of suspicion and praise. I know this because I began to conduct research on these men two decades ago. They were hard to find and reluctant to speak about being the odd man out in a sea of mothers or what one father called “estrogen-filled worlds.”

Today, stay-at-home dads are everywhere. They walk proudly with their babies in slings; they’re daddy bloggers creating online and community dad groups; and they’re injecting a male presence at library story time and infant play groups. Television programs, such as Modern Family, Up All Night, and Parenthood, portray stay-at-home dads as smart, handsome, willing, and content. And high-profile women such as Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Christiane Amanpour, and Sarah Palin all live with men who have been called, or call themselves, stay-at-home dads.

The term ‘stay-at-home dad’ (SAHD) is part of our 21st century discourse and is used in a taken-for- granted manner by academics, journalists, and bloggers. The term is important. It signals a radical shift in traditional gendered forms of breadwinning and caregiving. Yet I think it’s time to re-think the stay-at-home dad label.

…Read the rest of the op-ed here.



The Dads are Right Here

In June I was asked to join a debate in the New York Times about fathers and parenting discussions. The question posed was a provocative one: despite the fact that “today’s dads…change diapers and shake up the P.T.A.,” fathers remain marginal in “the national conversation” about parenting. Simply put, the debate’s creator wanted to know why “we still think of ‘parenting’ as ‘mothering’?” Here is what I wrote in response.

The premise of this forum is that dads rarely appear as active participants within parenting disputes and debates.

I disagree.

As someone who has been studying fatherhood for over two decades, I can say with certainty that men have not been left out. Leading scholars declared it a hot topic as far back as the 1990s, and in the last decade there has been an explosion of research on fathering. In fact, I am writing this piece while attending the inaugural Work-Family Researchers Network Conference in New York City where American and international researchers are discussing both fathering and mothering with equal vigor.

Click here to read my full response.


Fathers in the Media

Every year for the past several years, major media outlets have marked Father’s Day by publishing features and commentaries about Dads. This past Father’s Day was no exception, but what is exceptional is how positive the articles are about changing fatherhood. Notably, while there were some vestiges of the strong/masculine/breadwinning father stereotype here and there, most of what was published seems to point to fathers’ changing roles — the departure of today’s new Dads from the models likely set by their own fathers.

In the Globe & Mail, Shelley Smith asks: “Where are the stay-at-home dads in children’s books?”, and David McGinn explains “Why I’m a weepy dad and my dad wasn’t” — a shift he sees reflected in the relationships between other 21st century men and their Dads.

In the National Post, Sara Boesveld puts a human face on the statistics, showcasing the lives of Dads who are “deeply engaged in child-rearing amid a mini baby boom”.

Finally, the Canadian Press devoted an article to highlighting the challenges faced by stay-at-home Dads — most notably the isolation some fathers have tried to mitigate by establishing Dad’s groups and communities.


Scholarly Reflections on Blogging

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged and so, I thought I would repost my thinking on scholarly blogging. I am completing one book and have two more underway and that is where most of my time is going.

And so, I am heeding William Powers’ thoughts on “a new digital philosophy” as “a way of thinking that takes into account the human need to connect outward, to answer the call of the crowd, as well as the opposite need for time and space apart.” I have, in short, been taking lots of time and space apart. Thanks for visiting!

artwork by Christine Martell

In 2011 I started blogging. What did I learn? I learned that the scholar who blogs can face complementary and conflicting practices in writing, reading, and promotion. Find out more at the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Scholarly Blogging: Once a Tortoise, Never a Hare.”

Breadwinning Moms Caregiving Dads Fathering Media

“Daddy Leave” and gender equality at home & work

Last summer (July 2011), I was asked by the New York Times to participate in a debate about women and work in Europe. I chose to address the issue of policy changes that work towards gender change and how men’s parental leave is a critical part of this issue.

Below is the first part of my response; for the full piece, click here.

The quest for greater gender equality in paid work and care work requires multiple strategies that involve both women and men. The International Herald Tribune article about women in the German work force dealt mainly with the issue of women and work. Yet, the challenges that men face, both as workers and as caregivers, must also be addressed.

One way of addressing this is to look to countries like Sweden, Norway and Canada for lessons on how parental leave policies have been used to encourage changing gender relations around paid work and care work. These are policies that recognize and build on the constant interplay between gender equality and gender differences.

In Sweden and Norway, there has been a significant shift away from the “male breadwinner/ female caregiver model” of work and family. This occurred partly through respecting a long-standing practice of long maternity leaves for women combined with affordable, accessible and high-quality child care; to this, they added parental leave policies designed to encourage men to be involved in early child care. One of the rationales for the latter was that getting fathers into the home would help to disrupt a deeply rooted pattern and social norm of women as primary care-giving experts and men as main breadwinners.

Click here to read more and to join in the debate!


Between Two F-Words: Fathering and Feminism

More Together

Ten years ago when I was listening to, and writing about, the stories of stay-at-home dads and single fathers, many men asked me why it was that I – a woman, a feminist – was so interested in the lives of fathers. I was continually asked: Don’t feminists typically study mothers? What does feminism have to do with fatherhood? Isn’t feminism about women, after all?

Read the full article here.

*Image: “More Together” courtesy of Christine Martell

Bread & Roses Breadwinning Moms Caregiving Dads

“Workaholic Women” and “Slow-Moving” Men?

I belong to one of the couple types that Hanna Rosin described in her recent piece on breadwinner wives in Slate magazine—the one where the “woman is a born workaholic and the man lives a slower pace”. Although it is more complex than those labels, I have nevertheless lived a version of that story for about twenty years.

I’m a professor, researcher and author; my husband is a naturopathic doctor / acupuncturist whose work schedule goes up and down depending on the economy. We have raised three children together (one is now 20, and the twins are 16 years old).

I have also spent twenty years researching and writing about the changing stories of breadwinning mothers and primary caregiving fathers.

Read the full story here.

*Photo credits: Mom and Dad (Flying a Kite), courtesy of one of my daughters (at age 5)




Currently doing research and writing.

Upcoming events will be posted in Spring 2013!



Breadwinning Mothers and Caregiving Dads: An argument for Gender symmetry in Care Work. Panel of Scholars and community experts debating the questions: What do Mothers need and/or want? Institute of Mothering and Community Research Conference, Toronto. (May 8-9)

“From Breadwinners to Caregivers? The Historical and Social Construction of “Stay at Home Dads‟ Canadian Historical Association, Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities, Wilfred Laurier University, May 26

Fathers and Parental Leave in Canada. Presented in a Panel on International Perspectives on Fathers and Parental Leave, The Work and Family Researchers Network, New York, June 14-16.

WAHD, SAHDS, and Working Dads: What is a Stay at Home Father? The Work and Family Researchers Network, New York, June 14-16.

What does reflexivity do? Featured Keynote speaker at the Annual Qualitatives Conference, Memorial University, June 20-24.

Bread & Roses Media

Breadwinning Mothers in the News

SSHRC Research for Real Life (Feburary 2011)

Bread & Roses Caregiving Dads

Are Dads Facing Playground Discrimination?

Are Dads facing discrimination on the playground?Are men being kicked out of playgrounds? Are dads facing playground or playgroup discrimination? These questions, and some answers, were floating on the blogosphere and twitterverse over the last few weeks.

Read the full post here at Girl With Pen.