However, from my experience, the stigma is a silent one. So much so that, with the odd exception, I could easily pass it off as my imagination, even paranoia.
I could imagine boardroom grumblings when I asked for four months paternity leave (followed by a 4.5 day week) to spend more time with my kids but, with one exception, no one verbalised any problem to me. In fact it was quite the opposite. Everyone was very supportive, amazed, and somewhat fascinated by my decision. A new breed of Guinea pig had arrived within my office.
My wife and all other mums have been 110% behind me and it’s been nice to have been accepted into their “world”. Being the “token” dad at parents’ workshops was a little daunting at first but I was determined to find out exactly what it was like to be an active “mum”! I was a bit of a curiosity :-) (think elephant man). Their responses were generally “good for you, doing what you feel is important”, “wonderful that you are able to do this”, and “how great for your kids”.
So the stigma exists, I think, predominantly amongst men stemming mainly, perhaps, from the previous generation. Perhaps generally men still feel that they ought to be the working breadwinner and that it takes something away from their masculinity otherwise. Perhaps older men feel envious that “younger” men (I’m the wrong side of 40) are now able to do this, when they couldn’t (or chose not to). I think most people understand that dads too can to be at home while the mums go out to work but, because it’s so uncommon, it’s somehow still a little strange.
Taking paternity leave has certainly added to my skill set and understanding and because of it I may be (arguably!) more useful at home. I also now know exactly how hard it is for mothers at home. It’s bloody hard work, but at the same time it’s the most rewarding job there is. A job with real meaning and one which should demand the respect of us all. It’s the ones at home that keep things together.
If I had my way I’d make it compulsory for all dads to take time off for their kids. Not just because I’ve seen such a positive response from my kids, but it makes the house more equal. You know each other better when you share responsibilities, it helps the relationship and the whole family dynamics.
Sometimes, financially (for now at least) it just can’t be done. Granted. But if there is even a question mark in your mind about doing it, stop thinking and just do it.