Stay at home dads are one of the growing trends in parenting. In this episode of The Lab, Daddy Clay is joined by Dr. Aaron B. Rochlen, University of Texas Professor of Psychology. He sits down to discuss this important parenthood topic. Whether it is because of the economy or job layoffs, many men are playing the role of stay at home dad. How do moms feel about this? Do dads experience more happiness when they take care of their children?
Welcome back to the lab, I am Daddy Clay, this show is brought to you by Baby Bjorn and we have a very special show this week, because we are joined here by Dr. Aaron Rochlen, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas. Daddy Clay: Thank you Dr. Rochlen for joining us. Dr. Aaron Rochlen: Thank you for having me on. Daddy Clay: Absolutely. Daddy Clay: So let’s talk about stay at home dad. Give us a little snapshot, things are changing it seems as a consequence of changes in the economy in the world of state home dads what kind of impact does that have? Dr. Aaron Rochlen: Well I think it’s a particularly important time to look at this issue, because what we found is even in the last five years, there is a real significant growth in the number of stay at home fathers, but in the last few years, because of what's been going on in the economy, their layoffs have been particularly impactful for men. I believe it’s the 80% of the layoffs in the last two years has impacted men and obviously that’s also impacting men’s roles at homes for men who aren’t finding jobs immediately and so for these guys, they are having a kind of go through a really critical point in their lives in terms of negotiating what kind of home care responsibilities are going on. There are some situations where people are reacting to those doubts with like what happened, you must have left your job, but there is also a lot of admiration and even jealousy being expressed both by working men, who would like to spend more time with their children, and mothers who are like—wow, I would love if my dad played--my husband played a more active role at home too. Daddy Clay: In the households where the father is staying home, I guess as a result of exigent circumstances because he has been laid off, does that change the dynamic in the household as opposed to if it stands sort of by mutual concern or if the decision made and sort of without that. Dr. Aaron Rochlen: It’s essentially a timely question we just finished up a study where that’s what we are doing, we are looking at the reasons why men are going into the stay at home father role and how that’s relating to adjustment their psychological well being and even their marital satisfaction and what you indicated there is right on target, so guys who are being forced into it or couples who are making the decision, purely because of economic reasons or job loss etcetera, not surprisingly can be struggling more in the role whereas men and families are negotiating that decision based on their own parental beliefs or based on just the importance of a parent being at home or adjusting matter and the other thing that we found is that I think is pretty interesting is men that are kind of holding on to very traditional ideas about what men should do and careers related to their own identity are struggling some, whereas men who are kind of defining their masculinity in more flexible terms or are adjusting better to the role and less impacted by the stigma that’s out there. Daddy Clay: So other than just sort of practice makes perfect when it comes to being a stay at home dad, are there are any strategies that you are observing in the stay at home dads that are successfully making these transition, I mean is there a pattern in what guys are doing right to be happy in the most stay at home dad? Dr. Aaron Rochlen: Yeah, I would pretty much summarize that in terms of support and isolation, so that the men who are really getting good support for their roles, who are finding other stay at home fathers in their own communities they have stay at home dads of a huge online presence which I think is terribly important and we have seen tremendous growth in terms of online support groups on stay at home fathers and father in general and then the tricky part about it, the men who are struggling are those that get kind of isolated. Parenting as you know especially full time parenting can be one of the real significant challenges as your world is immersed within childhood play often and you kind of miss that adult interaction and so the men who are not connecting with others or isolating themselves from other parents, for modern man, or who are being isolated by stigmatizing responses for others are naturally struggling more. Daddy Clay: I wonder what it’s going to take for sort of political action for that to be—or even action that business community for the attitudes to be about parentally leave instead of maternity leave? You know actually let’s stick to that point for us to agree at the fact that you are going to be taking a little maternity leave. Dr. Aaron Rochlen: In the fall we will be expecting our second child and my wife is a physician, makes far more money than I am—thank you University of Texas for that. For that one and I will be the primary caretaker at home and the University has a very generous policy where I was able to I did have to apply a modified instructional leave but I won't have a teaching release for an entire semester. Daddy Clay: well thanks a lot for coming and I really appreciate you talking to us about the stay at home dads here in this country, thanks a lot to Baby Bjorn for allowing us to bring in really great experts and professionals, talking about being a dad, here with you guys here in the lab.