Stay-at-home dads are the leading edge of the daddy shift, pioneers who are quietly mapping new territory for all fathers. Stay-at-home dads represent one extreme of a continuum that includes the growing number of dads who split work and child care equally with their spouses, widowed or divorced custodial dads (a group that has quadrupled in size since 1970), two-dad families, and working fathers who have restructured their jobs in order to make more time for their children.
Female breadwinning is, of course, the main economic factor that makes stay-at-home fatherhood possible. Prior to the 1960s, it was uncommon for mothers to work and nearly unheard of for them to make more money than their husbands. Today, 80 percent of mothers have jobs and one-third of wives make more money than their husbands--and we have every reason to believe that these trends will intensify: Today in America, for example, young women outnumber men on college campuses, and they earn more than young men in many American cities.
As women's incomes continue to rise--and they will--men will be called upon to do even more housework and child care. According to a growing number of studies, there is a direct relationship between the amount of money women earn and the amount of housework and child care men do.
For many people, male and female, the question of whether men can effectively take care of children and homes remains open. But, after 30 years of research and growing male participation at home, we are now beginning to understand that the answer is yes, they can. The stay-at-home dad is important because he sweeps aside myths and stereotypes about what men can and can't do for their families, tears down the walls that divide men from their children, and fulfills the promise of feminism, which has al- ways been as much about transforming gender roles as fighting inequity.