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An online survey of more than 1,200 dads conducted by TODAY.com in partnership with Fatherly.com found that modern dads are navigating challenges like “dad guilt” and “stay-at-home dad envy” — concepts their own fathers would scarcely recognize.
And, we found out how many are secretly hiding in the bathroom instead of helping out with the kids.
Dad guilt: It's a thing
Nearly two-thirds of working dads surveyed (63 percent) said they envy stay-at-home dads. About one in five (19 percent) said they feel guilt about not being “present” enough with their children and 17 percent said they suffer from “dad guilt” about working too much.
But dads still feel that traditional pressure to be the breadwinner. About one in four (28 percent) reported they feel “dad guilt” about not making enough money to provide for their family the way they’d like to.
"That's the big dilemma that we struggle with," said Joshua David Stein, the editor-at-large of Fatherly and father of two sons. "Women have struggled with this for generations, and all of a sudden we understand — 'Oh, this is what it feels like to choose between wanting to be with your family and making money.'"
Doyin Richards felt guilty about missing out on time with his children when he worked a corporate job. "I spent the majority of my days wishing I was at home with my young daughters," Richards said. So he left the 9-5 office life to be a stay-at-home, work-at-home dad, and said he never looked back. "It was easily the best decision I've ever made in my life."
Asked whether they’d rather get to spend more time with their children or get a raise at work, dads were evenly split, with 51 percent choosing more family time and 49 percent opting for the raise.
"Being the breadwinner is a very entrenched cultural norm" for men, Stein said. "On the other side, they're wanting to be more present with their family. It forces men to examine how they define their self-worth."
On the other hand, dad guilt? What's that?
But not all dads are agonizing over their life choices. In fact, they’re a pretty cheerful bunch overall. A quarter of dads (26 percent) said they don’t feel dad guilt at all — they do their best, and they don’t feel bad about it — a refreshing attitude.
Richards said he understands the lack of guilt. "Now that I left my corporate job, I don't feel any dad guilt whatsoever because my schedule is flexible enough to spend as much time with my daughters as I would like," he said. "On the flip side, I bet there are some dads who are never at home due to work commitments and also don't feel any dad guilt because they believe making money is what they're supposed to do for their families."
Fathers are not too worried about what others think of them, either. More than half (56 percent) say they don't feel judged by other parents for their parenting choices. Among those who DO feel judged, dads are 14 times as likely to say they feel judged by moms than by other dads.
When it comes to pulling their weight at home, 50 percent of dads say their partner does more of the childcare than they do but only 10 percent feel guilty about not contributing more at home. Half of dads say they “never” hide or feign incompetence to avoid childcare, while 26 percent admit they sometimes pull the old “hide in the bathroom trick,” a very honest three percent said they do it “often,” and 21 percent said “just that one time.” Suuuuuuure… we know the truth now!
"I don't care if you're a mom or a dad, we've all done the 'hide in the bathroom trick,'" Richards said. "Many parents try to act as if they're above this sort of thing, but most of us aren't (myself included). Just own it and understand that it's part of parenting."