Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work As the recession left millions of Americans without a job, some men decided to stay home and take care of their kids. But as the economy improves, they're finding that re-entering the workforce isn't easy. Some say they're happy at home, while others face a hard time selling their daddy skills to employers.
NPR logo

Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125057317/125086853" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work

Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125057317/125086853" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:

By some estimates, there are about 2 million men who are primary caregivers for their children. That number was already on the rise before the recession started. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, some stay-at-home dads are thinking about how they'll approach rejoining the workforce eventually.

YUKI NOGUCHI: Rami Cohen is regular at the stay-at-home dads playgroup. He says he loves being a full-time dad, though it divides his attention.

WERTHEIMER: It's been really wonderful. And we found that...

WERTHEIMER: Need help with that.

WERTHEIMER: Need help with that? Here. You can lower this one?

NOGUCHI: Business at Cohen's architecture firm went south with the downturn. Employees got furloughed, first at two days a week - and then to none.

WERTHEIMER: Eventually, this is all going to turn around and eventually, work is going to come back and speed back up.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOY RINGING)

WERTHEIMER: That's great.

NOGUCHI: Kevin Folk already has two. Last summer, the father of 11-month-old twins was laid off from a sales job with the National Association of Home Builders. He says he approaches his new line of work kind of like he did the old one. He networks with the other at-home dads and picks up tips.

WERTHEIMER: For example, we had these little - these little things, these mesh things that you put fruit in. I didn't know about those things.

NOGUCHI: Folk says he's looking to re-enter the workforce at least part-time, but he says it's hard. For starters, try doing a job interview on the phone with babies crying and crawling around. Also, he says, he wondered whether he should put his daddy gig on the resume, so he consulted some experts in human resources.

WERTHEIMER: Oh, they said, absolutely. You want to include that, as this is why you're at home. You know, you're doing something and it might show, you know, some especially - I don't know, I always say like, well, twins. You talk about, you know, being able to prioritize and manage.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WERTHEIMER: It's pretty tough.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NOGUCHI: Jeremy Adam Smith wrote a book called "The Daddy Shift" after his stint staying at home. This is what he says about having at-home caregiving on the resume...

WERTHEIMER: Yeah, it's a liability.

NOGUCHI: Moms who take a hiatus from work have been dealing with this for a lot longer. But, Smith says, now that men are staying home in greater numbers, they're having to confront the same reality.

WERTHEIMER: When they're knocked out of the workforce or they take time out of the workforce to take care of children, they're going to lose a little bit of ground, and I think we should just - need to be realistic about that.

NOGUCHI: Back at the Monday morning play group in Arlington, Virginia, Dave Cavey is not ready to concede losing too much ground. The former Marine wasn't able to find work after the family moved from Abu Dhabi last summer. He eventually gave up the job search, pulled the kids out of expensive day care, and now volunteers at various places.

WERTHEIMER: Like for example, the City of Alexandria, National Park Service, our condo association - where we're new homeowners - running for a position on the board of directors there. So I'm trying to do things to kind of pad my resume.

NOGUCHI: Over on the other side of the room, Michael J. Madsen is showing off baby photographs. Madsen just sent his notice giving up his part-time gig teaching commercial photography. When he does re-enter the workforce, he says he'll do so as a baby photographer.

WERTHEIMER: And this time, actually, is helping me build my portfolio, because I can shoot babies.

NOGUCHI: But right now, Madsen is more concerned about recruiting other dads to join him for play dates at the ballpark.

WERTHEIMER: Jason and I are going to hit the park.

NOGUCHI: Madsen says he loves being a homemaker but of course, every job has its drawbacks.

WERTHEIMER: Poop - poop is the biggest downside.

NOGUCHI: And that's not all.

WERTHEIMER: Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.