Man about home: the stay-at-ho

Man about home: the stay-at-home dad trend in SA

Not too long ago, being a stay-at-home parent was exclusively a maternal norm. Now this trend is changing, as dads are electing to stay home with the kids while Mum brings home the bacon.

Man about home: the stay-at-ho

Although being a stay-at-home dad is a relatively new concept in South Africa, its popularity is growing, and more and more men are opting to stay at home with their children while their partners go to work.

The difficult economic state South Africa is in at the moment has prompted the shift from fathers being the breadwinners to either both parents needing to work or the person who earns the most money going to work.

“Many more women are educated into professional occupations, which means it is very easy for the female partner to earn significantly more,” points out Jacques Taylor, a counselling psychologist at Cape Town’s Crescent Clinic.

Of course, balancing the quality and cost of childcare versus earning two salaries is a contributing factor. Many parents prefer to have their children looked after by one of them, rather than a daycare or caregiver, and therefore opt for the father to stay at home with the children. It makes economic sense.

Whilst most men taking on the household chores and primary caregiver responsibilities are enjoying it, it doesn’t come without difficulties. Many men become aware that their time is no longer their own, and this can require a huge adjustment. Also, their worth is no longer revealed through their income and professional labour, but rather through the happiness and contentment of their children.

Feeling unsettled in their new roles can also be due to the feeling of a loss of masculinity. Income has become the marker of a man’s masculinity over the years, and it takes time to adjust this mindset.

Cape Town-based family counsellor, Shaamiela Safodien-Ras, agrees that being the primary caregiver goes against most men’s natural instinct due to hundreds of years of cultural and societal programming. “It takes a very evolved man to be completely okay with being at home and for it not to affect his sense of manhood,” she says.

It is generally considered beneficial for children to spend a lot of their time with a parent, so the decision for a dad to stay at home ultimately boils down to how comfortable he feels, and his partner feels, about his new position.