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When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, touted mothers as the ones who “really hold the country together,” at the convention last week, she touched a nerve for a lot of us, and not in a good way.

Not only did women who are choosing to be childfree wonder where they stand in mattering to their country, but stay-at-home dads were equally pissed. As Mega SAHD blogger Mark Greene wrote for the Good Men Project, “We modern dads are not the stereotypical disengaged working men of fifty years ago who dismissed the work that mothers do. We do this work, too and we know it can be an ass whipping.”

You bet today’s men aren’t like our dads were!

There are more hands-on dads than ever before; some 1.8 million are single dads and 154,000 men are stay-at-home dads, according to recent Census figures, which means more men are “holding the country together” — or at least their family!

And as Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work and Care and Brock University sociology professor Andrea Doucet writes, the numbers are deceiving:

While these numbers indicate a three-fold increase since 1986, they also seriously underestimate the numbers of fathers who provide much of the daily care of children. tweet

Excluded from these numbers are secondary, irregular, flexible, or part-time earners; part-time students; work-at-home dads (WAHDS); unemployed job-seekers, the underemployed, and discouraged workers. Moreover, statistics that follow only husband-wife families exclude a growing number of single, divorced, and gay fathers. tweet

But the question that needs to be asked is, how many of those stay-at-home dads actively chose that role and how many were forced into it by the economic recession, the “unemployed job-seekers, the underemployed, and discouraged workers”? There is a difference in how that impacts Dad and Mom.

Because for all our talk about the “new dad,” we still expect men to be the provider, although that is proving harder and harder for men in this economy. As journalist Hanna Rosin (you may know her from her controversial Atlantic article, “The End of Men,” and the debate on whether men are finished that followed) writes in “Who Wears the Pants in This Economy?”:

“It used to be that in working-class America, men earned significantly more than women. Now in that segment of the population, the gap between men and women is shrinking faster than in any other, according to June Carbone, an author of Red Families v. Blue Families. … As the economy fails to fully recover, it’s unclear what will happen to traditionally male or female jobs generally. tweet

So what does that mean? Certainly, we should be celebrating more men being the hands-on caregivers.

Not so fast!

Among the somewhat surprising research is that the more economically dependent a man is on his wife, to more likely he is to cheat, according to Christin Munsch, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford’s Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research. And as we all know, infidelity is one of the main reasons for divorce, according to numerous studies.

Munsch is among those contributing to a growing body of research on threats to masculinity, and is working on a book Man Up: Masculinity Threat and Compensation in Young American Men. Some men who experience threats to their gender identity overcompensate by resorting to booze and drugs, engaging in risk-taking behavior, become sexually aggressive, and express anger and aggression, she says. And, yes — they’re more likely to have an affair.

In an email exchange, I asked Munsch if we’re liable to see more cheating men as the numbers of SAHDs increase. Probably, she notes. For men who “voluntarily, happily left the labor market to stay at home, they would not experience it as threatening to their masculinity or feel the need to compensate in response,” she says.

But, she adds, “if more men are staying at home out of necessity, for example because of of job loss during times of economic downtown, then according to the theory they would be more likely to cheat.”

Well, great.

Of course, working women have many more opportunities to cheat (and apparently are acting on it).

  • Do you believe men who stay home because of the economy — not by choice — feel emasculated?
  • Do you believe it leads them to cheat?

5 Responses to “Do stay-at-home-dads cheat more than other dads?”

  1. Angela says:

    When my daughter was born almost 14 years ago, my husband and I made a decision — since I had more lucractive and more stable employment — that he would stay home with our daughter. I was a lawyer; he was a “non practicing” fine art painter. He stayed home full time, and though not the conventional stay-at-home parent, I thought he did a fantastic job. I was so proud of him and thankful for him, and I did everything I could to encourage him. I considered myself incredibly blessed among working moms that I was able to leave our child with her father — instead of a stranger — when I went off to the office. Granted, I was not an “absent” parent. I usually “took over” baby duty when I got home. I planned birthday parties. I went on doctor visits. He continued as a full-time stay-at-home dad when our son was born a few years later. By the time both of them were in school, we talked about him going back to work. But he just never got around to it. There always seemed to be things for him to do around the house. He didn’t seem interested in painting, he didn’t seem interested in getting a job. He only had these off-the-wall ideas about starting businesses he had neither the skills nor the resources to pull off, and even those he never followed through with in any meaningful way. But I remained supportive of him, knowing that he was still busy being our kids’ primary caregiver, shuttling them to soccer practice and gymnastics classes, picking them up from school, etc. Then recently, when our family experienced a devastating health scare, my husband confessed to me that he had had sexual affairs with two different women — both married, both with children of their own — the first, eight years before (coinciding with the time our youngest started preschool), and the second, a little over a year before. I was floored. I never suspected a thing. The arrangement I’d seen before as a blessing I now viewed with growing resentment. I do think that my husband had feelings of inadequacy — in part due to his status as stay-at-home dad — which led to his pursuing affairs. He was all on board with being a stay-at-home dad. He was not forced into the role by recession. I do wonder whether he embraced the role in order to avoid pursuing other opportunities and possibly failing, because I think in many respects he’s paralyzed by fear. I suspect that my husband’s actions are more likely attributable to more deep-seated issues than his role as a stay-at-home dad. But I do think that role allowed him to avoid dealing with the deep-seated issues.

  2. OMGchronicles
    Twitter: OMGchronicles

    Angela, I am sorry that you had to experience this. You bring up some interesting issues and I agree with you — there’s no way to know how much of what happened had to do with deep-seated issues, how much had to do with being a stay-at-home-dad and how much each became an enabler for the other. Sometimes it all gets muddled. I think at heart we all go about thinking we are doing our best and that our partner should appreciate what we do and we believe we’re happy with our choices, and then one day, when we snap out of our comfortable but oblivious patterns we realize that no matter what we think and expect, things happen that we didn’t anticipate.
    You don’t say what happened after. Did it get the two of you to talk openly and honestly about what was going on and more past it, or did you split?
    Thank you for your honesty. I’m hoping that you are in a better place.

  3. Angela says:

    We’re still together. It has been — and remains — a difficult road. We’ve talked through a lot of issues, but I think there’s more work to be done. I feel good about where I am as an individual. I’ve been seeing a therapist; I’ve been nurturing female friendships, which I had previously neglected; I’ve been seeking spiritual growth through prayer, study, and fellowship. But I’m concerned that little has really changed for us as a couple, and that scares me. He is resistant to getting outside help, which I believe we desperately need.

  4. Josh says:

    I’m a stay at home dad. Can’t find work enough to sufficiently exceed the cost of day care, and don’t want to leave my dear kids with a stranger anyway. I’d rather be the one to give them daily care and love. When I search online for material that might speak to me concerning the personal issues and challenges that arise, I find only stuff like this article. Broad social trends and percentages interpreted through please-the-crowd gender stereotypes. This notion of a threat to masculinity (the “emasculation” argument) is a joke. What about how depressing it can be for an adult (I have a PhD from a top research university, and a previous work history, if it matters…) to spend all day with diapers, food on the floor, tantrums and minor traumas, etc? Not having any contact with or validation from other adults? It would eat away at the self-image of any remotely sensitive and intelligent person, man or woman. But no, it’s gotta be “emasculation.” And the question of how many “actively chose” the role is irrelevant. Who “actively chooses” their lot in life, except people with money? Guys who are executives, lawyers, or some such are the only ones you hear about making the oh-so valiant choice to stay at home. How many women in the history of our society “actively chose” to stay at home? Did they have a choice?

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      “What about how depressing it can be for an adult (I have a PhD from a top research university, and a previous work history, if it matters…) to spend all day with diapers, food on the floor, tantrums and minor traumas, etc? Not having any contact with or validation from other adults?”

      Now you understand why women became feminists; we were told home-keeping and baby-raising was what we were “made” for and for decades, centuries we had no choice until Title IX. And we are still judged for choosing careers over babies. Caregiving is not respected in the world and yet it’s essential for humanity. Now that you know how it feels, what do you suggest we do as a society? Thanks for writing in.

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