Mr. Mom Challenges
According to a National Institutes for Health study on heart disease, men who have been stay-at-home dads for most of their adult lives have an 82% higher risk of heart disease when compared to men who work outside the home.
The media headline for the article reads, "Stay-at-home dads face health risks." Elaine Eaker, a researcher at Epidemiology Enterprises, wrote, "This … as far as we know has never been examined. And it's really an unanticipated finding." She speculates that role reversal may be contributing to the negative results: "The incongruity with what society expects [in the traditional sense] may be deleterious to your health."
Another significant finding concerning working moms was hidden in the study: Mothers who labor in high-authority jobs are almost 300% more likely to have heart disease compared to women in low-authority jobs.
Peter Baylies has been an at-home dad for ten years. He and his wife, a schoolteacher, have opted for a moderate lifestyle so they could spend more time with their children. Peter publishes a newsletter, At-Home Dad. Over the past ten years, he has had contact with over 10,000 other dads who have spent from one year to ten years as the primary parent for their children.
From Baylies' contact with dads—and from his personal experience—he has concluded that dads who are the primary caregivers of their children experience the same challenges faced by moms who stay at home, like managing household chores, schedules, planning meals, etc. He said, "The most common challenge for dads who stay at home is keeping in touch with their wife."
In many cases, moms lose contact with their husbands and families because of busyness, travel and expectations at the work place. As one dad put it, "My wife is gone all the time, and we don't see her at all." Baylies notes that the need for balancing work and family is the key, no matter who is working or what they are doing. He has established a network to aid dads who stay at home.
- Discuss with your wife how expectations for fathers have changed from one generation to another. Talk about how this has impacted your fathering.
- Discuss with your wife the challenges encountered by moms who work outside the home. Evaluate the benefits and challenges of working moms.
- Talk to your children about how you navigate the work/family challenge. Ask if they think you are doing a good job.