Growing shift in parental gender roles

June 23, 2009 11:53:54 AM PDT
A new book explores how stay-at-home dads and breadwinning moms are transforming the American family. The book is called "The Daddy Shift." The man who wrote it believes the definition of fatherhood is undergoing significant change.

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Waving good-bye is how the Dayaneni family typically begins their weekdays; dad and kids on the steps of their Oakland home while mom is off to work as a middle school teacher. Thirty-nine-year-old Gopal Dayaneni is a stay-at-home father.

"I think fatherhood, parenting in general, it should be whatever makes sense for you and your family, and for us it makes a lot of sense for me to be home with the kids," said Gopal.

It makes economic sense because his wife Martha is the breadwinner.

Gopal sometimes works for non-profits on social issues, but says it's minimal income that would all pour back into daycare, so it's preferable to care for the children himself. And he's noticing he's not alone.

"When I go to the park, I see a lot more dads now than even I did three years ago when I first started staying home," said Gopal.

"You find stay-at-home dads and dads sharing parenting with their wives all over the country, in every racial group, in every economic class, in every state," said author Jeremy Smith.

Jeremy was a previous stay at home dad himself. He has written a book called "The Daddy Shift". Gopal is one of the fathers he highlights in it, as he details this growing shift in parental gender roles in America.

"Stay-at-home dads emerged because women went to work in the 1950s. One out of every 10 mothers worked, and today 80 percent of mothers work," said Jeremy.

But two-income households aren't always sustainable. During this economic downturn, men represent the majority of those who've become unemployed.

"I think fathers and mothers are reacting to that, being willing to embrace flexible gender roles," said Smith.

Many families are also going through cultural and social shifts, realizing that caregiving is not male or female, it's both. It's just that government and workplace policy in the U.S. still need to make that transition.

"Masculine caregiving is not supported by our society. Only 1 in 10 fathers have access to paid parental leave," said Smith.

Smith also says research shows fatherhood is much more than just about earning money.

"We understand today that father involvement leads to healthier children and happier wives," he said.

"Do I ever get frazzled? Everyday, all the time, yeah," said Gopal.

No one's claiming the "daddy shift" is stress-free, but it's certainly a labor of love.

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