While the vast majority (98%) of those who were looking after home/family in 2016 were women, the CSO figures show the number of men looking after home/family nearly doubled in the 10 years up to 2016, rising from 4,900 to 9,200.
Benny Finlay, from Kilmeaden, Co Waterford, is one of those stay-at-home dads — he gave up his job as an auctioneer when his wife Hazel was about to return to work after having their second child.
“I was up and out the door before the kids and I was home at 7pm or 8pm,” says Benny, 38. “I got to see them for an hour a day. It wasn’t working for us. I was coming home and bringing the stress of work with me.
“When my wife’s second maternity leave was coming up, we had everything arranged, creche booked, and we were trying to sort out who would collect which child and when. We are originally from Wicklow and Wexford, and we have no immediate family here for fallback. We were looking at the logistics and asking why we were paying for someone else to mind our kids and I’d never get to see them, except at the weekends.”
He says the arrangement is working out well, but they had to adjust financially.
“Of course we are feeling it in the pocket — we have had to cut back but quality of life was the real deciding factor for us,” he says.
Since Benny decided to stay at home with Ben, 7, and Bella, 2, Ben has received a diagnosis of dyspraxia, which means having a parent at home to look after him is even more imperative.
“Ben really needs to have someone who he knows and trusts to handle each situation with him,” says Benny. “One thing out of order could throw out his entire day. We need to be extra careful, in terms of having a particular routine.”
He believes the State could do more to support families who are struggling because one parent is caring for the children in the home.
“Hazel works as a lecturer — because she has a decent enough job, we fall between the cracks,” says Benny. “We are not poor enough to get assistance and we are not rich enough to make ends meet.
“We have gathered enough funds to be able to live for a couple of years without me working but I will have to go back to work in a year or two unless I manage to do something from the home that will keep us ticking over.
“As Ben has dyspraxia, I am going through the rigmarole of applying for domiciliary carer’s allowance but the refusal rate is high.”
Benny was conscious from the start of how being a stay-at-home parent can be isolating and set up a blog and website, www.daddypoppins.com, to connect with other dads in the same position.
“There are more stay-at-home dads out there but it’s still not a huge number — it is unlikely you will meet another stay-at-home dad living next door,” he says.
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