People rarely talk about stay-at-home dads. I know they are out there, but I have found that for the most part, it’s dads who are home with very young kids or dads planning to be a stay-at-home dad. But in general, the women back out of being a breadwinner when the kids get older, and reality sets in when dads can’t handle the social stigma of being a stay-at-home parent. There’s a reason for stereotypes.

My hunch has been that men who are staying home with kids do it because they can’t earn enough to justify working instead of their wife. And I have also had a hunch that when kids get older, women begin to resent being the breadwinner.

These have been my hunches, based on own experience and analysis, until someone sent this paper that confirms my hunch — in such a gratifying way! The authors find that kids require different types of parenting at different stages of life, and for a mother, middle-school aged kids are the most difficult to parent.

This explains why high powered women who end up dropping out or scaling way back  usually do it when the kids are in middle-school. For those of you who don’t have older kids, middle-school is about the time when kids are able to take a mom to task for not being around when the kids want a parent. And the data shows that kids can complain to a mom or a dad, but the moms feel much more stress and anxiety from those complaints than dads do. Here’s my favorite paragraph:

That mothers generally experience ‘contagion of stress’ from their children is evident in biological evidence on women deeply affected by distress in their offspring (see Barrett & Fleming, 2011; Swain, Lorberbaum, Kose, & Strathearn, 2007). Studies have shown that mothers and fathers both experience early preoccupation with their infants — that is, a “deep focus on the infant to the near exclusion of all else” — but the intensity of this preoccupation is greater among mothers (Leckman et al., 2004; Feldman, Weller, Leckman, Kvint, & Eidelman, 1999), and mothers tend to be more sensitive to the cries of their newborn infants than are fathers (De Pisapia et al., 2013). Later in development, emotional distance from teenagers affects both fathers and mothers but again, there are greater ramifications for the latter as their identities are more closely tied to the parenting role (Collins & Russell, 1991).

This is why women cannot rely on marrying someone who will be 50/50 in parenting. Because men and women don’t care 50/50. And there is no way to know this at the beginning of a marriage. It’s something crazy that happens between a mother and child.

I’m sure if there are two dads, then the dads do just fine. Certainly two dads can raise kids. But the point here is that if there’s a mom in the picture, the mom wants to do it herself. Moms want to be the ones to raise the kids because moms care more when the kids are unhappy, so the moms will do more.

Yes, there are exceptions, but the likelihood that you are one of them is not high. Because even most women who have personalities that are very attuned to work (ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP) will stay at home with kids if there is an opportunity to do so.