Back in 1983 -- being a stay-at-home dad was considered unusual enough to make a movie about; Michael Keaton played a laid off factory worker who took over child care and chores around the house in "Mr. Mom.”
Twenty-eight years later, it's actually becoming more common. The Census Bureau reports that there are about 160,000 stay-at-home dads in the United States.
Ehren Habela, 31, is one of them. Ehren, his wife Christa and their daughter, two-year-old Adelaide, live in Southeast Baltimore. Christa averages 80 hours a week in a pediatric neurology residency at Johns Hopkins. She has four more years to go.
“The schedule is very erratic,” he said. “She can work from, sometimes, five in the morning until 10 am, 11 am the next day.”
When they met and got married, Ehren was managing a research lab. But when Adelaide arrived, there was only one decision to make. “Her schedule is always going to be crazy. So it made more sense for me to do it,” he said.
‘Doing it’ meant giving up his traditional place in the work force, and becoming a stay-at-home dad.
“Even my dad when I first started doing it he made fun of me for it,” he said. “I had to learn also how to hang out with a bunch of moms.”
In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that stay-at-home dads made up 2.7% of all stay-at-home parents. Not a high percentage, but it's three times the percentage of 10 years earlier. And that number doesn't include single fathers, or dads with children over 15.
Parenting expert Mia Redrick has coached hundreds of stay-at-home mothers. She says the choice to stay home isn't easy for moms or dads, but dads do have some extra peer pressure to prepare for from people who don't understand just how much work "staying home" really is.
“One of the things that I have advised moms who are at home, as well as dads, is once you get comfortable about being at home, everyone else will also,” she said, adding that the thing to focus on is that kids need love and support, regardless of which parent stays home.
“There's no research that I've seen that says because you're a mom you're a better caregiver or because you're a dad you're not as good a caregiver,” Redrick said.
Ehren says he's adjusted pretty well. For example, he cut two holes into Adelaide's winter hats, to allow her pig-tails fit.
“Her hat kept falling off and I figured if I did that I could pretty much anchor it on,” he said.
He says he does miss working, but he has no regrets about the decision he and his wife made, and the best part of being a stay-at-home dad has been -- and will continue to be -- getting to watch Adelaide grow up.
“I think a lot of people miss that now-a-days. I mean it happens so gradual but you see the first words, you see the first everything. Like walking and talking, using a fork… I decided to do this and I'm so happy that I did,” he said.
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