The New Face of Fatherhood

Who Works/Who Stays Home?

"When I was sick, my dad would never stay home from work," says Pierre Kim, 39, who runs an athletic-wear company and lives in New York City with his wife and 4-year-old daughter. "My wife and I basically look at our schedules and see which of us can take off more easily. My father never took me to the doctor when I was a kid. I'm there for all my daughter's appointments."

Some young dads even alter their work schedule completely to accommodate children. Geoff Cisler, a software engineer from Boston, works part-time, while his wife, an art curator, works full-time. "I was laid off right before our twins were born, and then I got a two-day-a-week gig," he explains. "After the babies came, we decided I would stick with the part-time job so I could be home with them. And that's where I really wanted to be."

Many couples decide who will work and who will stay home based on which partner has greater earning power -- and increasingly it's the woman. A study lead by researchers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis found that more than a quarter of U.S. wives earn more money than their husband. Figures are even higher among young couples in urban areas, which may explain why the ranks of stay-at-home fathers are expanding -- quite noticeably in cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 159,000 men were the primary caretaker of kids under 15 -- still only a tiny fraction of the total number of at-home parents, but up from 98,000 in 2003. And experts predict that, in the not-so-distant future, even more dads will be trading a briefcase for a baby bottle -- or at least juggling the two. In 2000, researchers at the Families and Work Institute, in New York City, asked high school students from around the country to imagine their adulthood. Almost 60 percent of the boys said they planned to reduce their working hours when they became a father. "I don't think we would have seen this 20 or 30 years earlier," says Ellen Galinsky, the institute's president.

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