What does it mean to be a stay-at-home-dad?

Even as more women remain in their jobs – be it for needed income or for the desire to remain in the workforce –  during their children’s early years, fathers still largely occupy the image in society as the family bread winner.

Still there are more stay-at-home dads than ever before. According to Pew Research, there are 11 million parents who do not work outside of the home and 17 percent are fathers, up from 10 percent in 1989.

Some men may bristle at the comic cliché of “Mr. Mom” – the title of an early 1980s Michael Keaton comedy about a single dad who loses his job and is forced into the caregiver role.

But here we are 35 years later and the idea of stay-at-home fathers, as household managers, is still not exactly, well, a household term.

Zia Ahmed, an American living in London, recently wrote about his experience for The Lily, taking care of he and his wife’s toddler while she works. He muses about being part of a woman’s world, at the park, in the cafes, at the library, like “a woman in a corporate boardroom: alone and slightly cold.”

He discovers that strangers are generally helpful when they see a father struggling to maneuver a stroller around town. Everyone is accommodating, he writes, except the moms who seem to shoot him icy stares or ignore him: but Ahmed shrugs off the brush off from his “sisters in arms” as a reflection of an entrenched system in a society that “glorifies dads and undervalues moms, whether they work or stay home.”

Nevertheless, Ahmed finds the challenge satisfying, his new appreciation of gender stereotypes eye-opening, and feels blessed that in his current situation he’s able to afford “a housekeeper and an Instant Pot” to keep him sane.