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Mr. Mom Era: Stay-at-home dads doubled over last decade

  • brandon and bailey.jpg

    Brandon Gowers was laid off from the financial sector three years ago but has spent the time wisely, pursuing a career in teaching and starting a non-profit charity while raising his 4-year-old daughter Bailey as a single parent.

  • Bryan Grossbauer.JPG

    Bryan Grossbauer, 35, with his 7-week-old daughter, Georgina, and his son Finn, who left his job in the education field after he and his wife determined that her income as an attorney provide enough financial stability.

  • Lance Somerfeld.jpg

    Lance Somerfeld, 38, pictured here with his son Jake, started the NYC Dads Group which boasts nearly 600 members. Somerfeld took an extended leave of absence from his job to be more hands-on.

For Bryan Grossbauer and his wife, the decision was easy.

Before their son Finn was born, nearly three years ago, they discussed who would stay at home and handle the daily tasks of raising a child.

“We hemmed and hawed about it,” Grossbauer, 35, of New York, told FoxNews.com. “We asked, ‘What makes the most sense?’”

“With me being an educator, I have experience with early childhood development and my wife, being an attorney, specializes in making money.”

- Bryan Grossbauer, stay-at-home dad

Grossbauer is a teacher by trade, while his wife, Erin O'Callaghan, is an attorney. The decision, like so many made over the kitchen table, took into account the household budget as well as the skills of the parents.

“With me being an educator I have experience with early childhood development and my wife, being an attorney, specializes in making money.”

Nationwide, the number of stay-at-home dads has more than doubled in the past decade, as more families are redefining what it means to be a breadwinner. There were only about 81,000 Mr. Moms in 2001, or about 1.6 percent of all stay-at-home parents. By last year, the number had climbed to 176,000, or 3.4 percent of stay-at-home parents, according to U.S. Census data.

While some might assume increasing numbers of fathers are home with their kids because of the recession.  But according to the results of a new study by Boston College, the rise may be due more to choices and evolving gender roles of parents.

“The hype around stay-at-home dads is due to the ‘man-cession’ but the census data shows that during the economic downturn the numbers were down,” Brad Harrington, research professor and executive director of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family, told FoxNews.com. He cited a recent study done by the center called, “The New Dad: Right at Home.”

“We found a distinction from dads who were laid-off and those who chose to leave their jobs,” he said to FoxNews.com.

“The New Dad” study concluded stay-at-home dads are most often forged in a mutual decision by spouses with pragmatic and economic reasons.

And in addition to factors such as maximizing household income and avoiding day care, more fathers than ever before simply relish the idea of a greater role in the raising of their children.

“It just makes better sense in some situations,” said Lance Somerfeld, founder of the NYC Dads Group, a New York-based social group of nearly 600 at-home fathers. “Any dad is truly capable of being an at-home dad if they have the support and the means to do it.”

“I embrace the role. To be there early and often for my child’s life,” added Somerfeld, also a former teacher who took an extended leave of absence to care for his 4-year-old son, Jake. “My wife loves it because she is able to pursue advancement in her career.

“I think a lot of families feel the same way.”

Just as society has – perhaps too slowly - embraced women as equals in the workplace, Harrington said it is accepting that fathers can be just as nurturing when it comes to being caregivers.

“It’s really about who is in a better position,” Harrington said. “It’s a pragmatic approach being made by many couples.”

Some stay-at-home dads, however, have been thrust into the role by an unforgiving economy.

“After I was let go, it was hard to find a new job,” said Brandon Gowers, of Newport Beach, Calif., who lost his job in finance during the economic collapse. He now stays home and takes care of his 4-year-old daughter Bailey.

“It has been difficult at times, but it allows me to pursue my passions,” Gowers said.

Gowers is now working toward becoming a teacher, a career he hopes will allow him to spend more time with Bailey. He has also used his time on the employment sidelines to help other folks, starting a non-profit charity called Buy a Meal, Get a Meal, in which restaurants can contribute a portion of proceeds from every meal sold to local-area food banks.

“If I had kept my job in finance, my career path would have been long hours with a high monetary gain but at the sacrifice of my family,” said Gowers. “Being a stay-at home dad has given me perspective.”

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