Pleasures and pitfalls of being a stay-at-home dad
HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- When Nate Ulmer takes his children to the playground during the day, he is usually the only father there.
If there are mothers around, they dont talk to him, which makes him feel a little out of place -- but he doesnt let it bother him.
Im not going to bring up Tupperware or anything like that, he said with a laugh.
Ulmer, a Bluffton, S.C., resident, is one of many men who have taken on the role of stay-at-home dad. He cares for Jorja, 5, and Hunter, 3, while his wife, Cathy, goes to work as a pharmacist. Theyre expecting their third child in May.
Most people Nate knows say its pretty awesome that he gets to stay at home with the children. His buddies pick on him sometimes, but he doesnt care. He knows theyre just messing with him.
I just enjoy being a parent, he said. Ive witnessed a lot of dads (who) just dont like being a parent at all.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012 about 189,000 fathers stayed at home with their children while their wives worked.
Professor Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, said there are two main reasons fathers decide to stay at home to care for their children: First, they like the idea of having one parent at home to raise the children if possible. Second, the decision about who should stay at home depended on who made less money. In most cases, Harrington said, the mothers made significantly more money or had the potential to make more money than the fathers.
Those reasons were the most common given in the centers 2012 national study of 31 men who stay at home with their children.
The study found that many stay-at-home fathers do worry about how others perceive them, though. The survey asked the men how they respond when they meet new people who ask what they do for a living. Most said they were stay-at-home fathers. Some said they would answer the question with what they used to do and add that they are home with the children for a little while.
Once they get past that, a lot of the guys said that what theyre doing now is tremendously meaningful, Harrington said.
Dave Scheifele of Bluffton has been a stay-at-home dad since his daughter, Elizabeth, was born four years ago.
A retired firefighter, paramedic and psychiatric nurse, Scheifele is not able to work a full-time job because of injuries sustained on the job. He does work part-time from home, doing IT consulting while caring for Elizabeth.
Scheifele said he doesnt really get reactions from people when he tells them what he does.
I think society has changed to where theres a lot more women in the working world and theres a lot more stay-at-home dads, he said.
In the Boston College study, the wives of stay-at-home fathers were also surveyed. What they found was that most of the men are married to ambitious, well-educated professional women. The wives were incredibly positive about their husbands raising the children. In all cases except one, the women couldnt say enough about how grateful they were for having one parent at home. They said their own careers could flourish because of it. They also said they couldnt help but feeling they should be the one at home.
Scheifeles wife, Alison, is a security clerk at Wexford Plantation on Hilton Head Island, S.C. She stayed home for about six weeks after the baby was born. Then Dave took over.
Who doesnt want to be home? she said. But then again, after two days home on the weekend, Im kind of ready to go back to work.