Domestic Diversions

Stay at home dads

The New York Times reports on households with “Two Fathers, With One Happy to Stay at Home.” Ginia Bellafante writes (excerpt):
In assuming those roles, demographers say, the two are part of an emerging population of gay men who are not only raising children but are also committed to the idea that one parent should leave the workplace to do it. Of 9,328 same-sex couples with children whose census returns were randomly selected for analysis by the Census Bureau, 26 percent of the male couples included a stay-at-home parent, said Gary Gates, a demographer with the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington. That figure is one percentage point more than for married couples with children and four percentage points higher than for female couples, said Mr. Gates, who performed the analysis for this article.

The percentage of men who stay at home is significantly smaller among married heterosexual couples, Mr. Gates said.

The obstacles of finding surrogate mothers and of discriminatory adoption laws that favor heterosexual couples have led some gay men to pursue parenthood with fervor.

“Being a planned gay father is such a project in itself,” said Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology at New York University and a senior scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families, a research organization. Often, Professor Stacey said, gay fathers or those aspiring to be “remain very judgmental of parents who don’t stay home.”

To some gay men, the idea of entrusting the care of a hard-won child to someone else seems to defeat the purpose of parenthood.
Same-sex couples with a stay-at-home parent are doing this even though census figures show that their median household income, $35,000, is lower than the $45,000 for a heterosexual married couple with a stay-at-home parent, Mr. Gates of the Urban Institute said.

The 2000 census found that there were some 60,000 male couple households with children in America, and close to 96,000 female couple households. Those figures are about 20 percent of all male couples and a third of all female couples.

Rob Calhoun and his partner refinanced their home in suburban Atlanta when Mr. Calhoun quit his job as a social worker to stay home with their baby daughter. “We really couldn’t afford it,” Mr. Calhoun said.

Sociologists, gender researchers and gay parents themselves say that because gay men are liberated from the cultural expectations and pressures that women face to balance work and family life, they may approach raising children with a greater sense of freedom and choice.

They may also not fear stigmatization in these new roles, said Ellen Lewin, chairwoman of the women’s studies department at the University of Iowa. Professor Lewin is the author of “Lesbian Mothers” (Cornell University Press, 1993) and is working on a study of gay fathers.

Conversely, feminism’s legacy may leave lesbians more ideologically committed to equality in their relationships, said Christopher Carrington, a professor of sociology at San Francisco State University and the author of “No Place Like Home” (University of Chicago Press, 2002), which examines how gay and lesbian couples divide household labor.

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