Atlantic editor: Stay-at-home dads 'a microscopic trend'

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4 2013 3:45 p.m. MDT

In this Wednesday, June 29, 2011 photo, Henrik Holgersson, right, and his son, Arvid, play on a seesaw with Henrik Johansson, and his son Walter at a playground in Stockholm. Holgersson has split Sweden's generous parental leave with his girlfriend Jenny Karlsson and is spending eight months at home with their child. Holgersson, who normally works as a rigger at an event company, says his time with his son as a stay-at-home dad is one of the best in his life.

Niklas Larsson, Associated Press

Atlantic senior associate editor Jordan Weissmann chastised the mainstream media Tuesday for its onslaught of “trend pieces” about the rise of stay-at-home dads.

“Every so often, a trend piece comes along that heralds the rise of the stay-at-home dad,” Weissmann wrote. “More fathers are choosing childcare over career, we're told, and it represents yet another shift towards gender equity in the age of the female breadwinner. … Those stories are making a big deal out of a microscopic trend.”

Weissmann conceded that the number of stay-at-home dads has risen from 76,000 in 1994 to 189,000 in 2012. However, he placed greater emphasis on the fact that within households with employed mothers only 9.5 percent of fathers are now acting as primary caregivers — a significant decline from 1993, when 13.9 percent of dads were primary caregivers in situations where mom worked.

“The growth of stay-at-home fatherhood makes for a nice story. But it's a misleading one,” Weissmann continued. “A decade ago, you could pack every stay-at-home dad into the University of Michigan's football stadium. Now, you'd just need Michigan and Ohio State's. And if anything, the last 15 years have seen men collectively stop taking on more responsibility as caregivers, not take on more of it.”

Of course, even if Weissmann is correct in asserting the whole “stay-at-home dad” storyline is overhyped by the media, that says nothing about whether working dads yearn to spend more time with their kids.

There is "a growing trend of fathers who want to spend more time with their families than prior generations of dads,” Devon Merling reported for the Deseret News during July. “Increasingly, dads are finding themselves struggling to figure out how to ‘have it all’ — a career and time with their families. … While the pressure for men to be dedicated to their job above all else persists, many dads are working hard to make time with their family an essential and growing part of their lives.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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