In Search of Latter-day Unicorns: The Mormon Stay-at-Home-Dad
“As an active Mormon stay-at-home dad married to an active Mormon female physician we are practically unicorns!”
“I don’t know, I’ve seen lots of unicorns and and only the two of you.”
With that snippet of a conversation with a good friend of mine as a brief intro, I invite you into the elusive, even the hidden world of a real, Latter-day unicorn–the Mormon stay-at-home dad. Previously referred to as “Mr. Moms” or even as “House Husbands,” modern dads who stay at home with their kids prefer the “stay-at-home dad” or even “stay-at-home parent” moniker. Some may go as far to use the name “Primary in-home-Male Parent”–but stay-at-home dad works for me.
One’s path to the stay-at-home parenthood habitat can vary but usually it involves assessing quality of life, some budgetary math, some prayerful consideration and family revelation. My wife and I did all of those. After the birth of our fourth child we really evaluated our two careers (which came with accompanying commutes), child care expenses and taxes (good nannies = not cheap), and the flexibility of our career paths (wife’s not, mine could be). We decided it was in the best interest of our family to have me “provide for their spiritual and physical needs” by having me stay at home while my wife worked.
This path is not traditional by any means, but one does not find the rare by going down the well-traveled trail. It is nice, though, when you meet people along the way who share experiences similar to yours. The average LDS congregation, however, is not the lushest of landscapes for stay-at-home dads so I was pleasantly surprised when the Winter 2016 issue of the BYU Marriott School of Management Alumni Magazine featured “Two for the Money” — a whole article about BYU couples who have also chosen to have the husband take the “at-home” role. More unicorns into the paddock! (Is it a paddock or a stable? The tapestries never showed more than a maiden and a small fence and there is a SHOCKING lack of documentaries about unicorns–I mean mormon stay-at-home dads.)
The well-researched article features four couples and discusses the challenges and choices they make to make their lives work. Their stories and trade-offs resonated with me, and it was terrific to see a publication associated with the LDS Church frankly discuss ways how Church members live the Family Proclamation in different ways. Regardless of who works and who is at home, discussing the division of chores and housework, planning date nights, unplugging when you arrive home from work, and communicating about more than just logistics will strengthen your relationship.
The challenges of being a stay-at-home dad are somewhat magnified by the lens of cultural Mormonism. A strict interpretation of the Family: A Proclamation to the World, for example, could suggest I am failing in my patriarchal responsibilities. On the same Sunday I received positive comments (“Oh, that’s so great you’re home with the kids”), my wife received questions and criticism about her career choices (“Why would you do that do yourself?”). The role of working women in the Church is a valuable discussion–it is worth more of a discussion I can address today. But I encourage you to read my wife’s article on Aspiring Mormon Women about her decision to become a pediatric anesthesiologist.
My wife and I prayerfully considered this major shift for our family. Being a stay-at-home dad is enjoyable. And frustrating. And busy. And just plain crazy. I imagine a stay-at-home mom would say something similar. But having me at home works for our family and has brought a measure of peace, harmony, and happiness that makes life better. I have come to appreciate more fully my marriage as a true team, and that in these sacred responsibilities of parenting we are helping one another as equal partners.
Now, should you come across the rare creature that is a Mormon stay-at-home dad, take heart! We are not a skittish breed. Get to know us–we won’t bite.