Stay-at-Home Dads Need Love Too


stay at home dads need love too. Des Moines MomPeople have plenty of thoughts about stay-at-home parenting. We love it, we hate it, we judge it, we misunderstand it.

We also tend to assign the label to only one parent: mom. But as research and experience suggest, that trend is becoming just as outdated as so many other parenting traditions, making one truth abundantly clear: stay-at-home dads need love too.

At our latest family gathering, I talked to my brother-in-law, father of three, and a relatively recent full-time caregiver. 

[Sidebar: is there any tag for stay-at-home parenting that doesn’t demean all parents in one way or another? All parents parent full time and give care. Few stay-at-home parents simply stay home. Don’t even get me started on the word “homemaker,” a label our banker tried to assign me. In 2023.]

Stay at Home Dads

Anyway. My brother-in-law made an offhand comment about how he and another dad sometimes felt excluded at traditionally mom-led parenting activities: school pick-ups, pool playdates, playground gatherings, etc. 

He wasn’t complaining, simply observing. 

It made me think about my own habits. I do naturally gravitate toward fellow moms in public spaces. Not on purpose, it’s just what I know. I suppose it started when the kids were babies and I was more comfortable nursing around other women or sharing postpartum body challenges. Now it’s just a habit.

Sometimes I assume dads aren’t looking for the same kind of connection as moms. That assumption seems problematic and entirely untrue.

The Pew Research Center recently confirmed that there are now more stay-at-home dads than ever before, for a variety of reasons. Even though we tend to celebrate dads when they make this “nontraditional” choice, that doesn’t necessarily make the experience any easier for them. 

They, too, struggle with naptime. They, too, feel the loneliness. 

But Dads might not have the same systems of support available to them as moms. There are plenty of “Mommy and Me” classes available, or local Moms websites (ahem). Dads might feel less comfortable joining an unofficial group of mom-dominated parents without an explicit invitation. It might not be as easy for them to swap phone numbers and make the first approach.

Like many parents, they might not need or want all of these outside systems of support. But they might.

So the next time you see any parent on the fringe of the crowd, maybe make an effort to include them. If you’re sending out an invite, consider using “parent” instead of “mom” when possible.  Try to avoid assumptions when it’s Dad who shows up at an event rather than Mom. The more welcome we can offer to kids and all their caregivers, the better-connected everyone feels.  

Regardless of gender, anyone responsible for the care and development of children can feel isolated and in need of a friend. It takes a village, as they say. All parents – whether they stay-at-home, work full-time, or embrace their domestic engineer label – need that village.


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