Rhiannon Harries: Homedad reveals the truth behind the stay-home dads

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The Independent Online

Whether you're a full-time mum or a childless nine-to-fiver, you've doubtless heard of Mumsnet, the online forum where mothers – and the occasional father – swap baking tips and interrogate the PM. But were you aware of its male-oriented counterpart, Homedad? Politicians might be lavishing their attentions on the mums, but given that research published last Wednesday revealed that the number of stay-at- home dads in the UK has increased tenfold in the past decade, they might be missing a trick by ignoring this burgeoning demographic.

It's the similarities rather than the differences between the two sites that are striking. OK, there is none of the nauseating OH (Other Half) shorthand on Homedad, and the recipes are more curries than cupcakes, but the practical and emotional support is essentially the same.

The finer detail of the research into home dads and working mums, carried out for Aviva, also proves that gender roles are exactly that – roles. And as they become more interchangeable, so do the emotional responses hitherto associated with a particular sex. Take the one in seven female bread-winners who admit to "occasionally resenting their partner because they have to go out to work" (make your own guess at how many more aren't admitting to it). Suddenly, expecting dinner on the table and a clean bathroom after a tough day at the office is less an assertion of patriarchal power than a simple human tendency to assume the grass is greener when you don't have to be on the 7.15 to London Bridge every morning.

Even the stats that seem to bear out an innate male aversion to child-rearing are less convincing under scrutiny. That 10 per cent of men say looking after their children full-time makes them feel "like less of man" is not surprising. What's surprising it is only 10 per cent. Ask stay-at-home mums whether spending the best part of their day alone with someone incapable of speech sometimes made them feel less of a person (if not, perhaps, a woman) and many more would surely agree.

However you divide up the practical and emotional difficulties of going out to work or staying at home to look after your kids, each partner, regardless of their sex, will be lumped with a particular set of problems. The best you can perhaps hope for is that each gets the set for which they are individually better equipped to cope.

Although I wonder if anyone is really prepared to cope with everything childcare throws at them, as a post on Homedad entitled "When the little sod won't eat?" demonstrates. Luckily, it sits not too far away from another: "Parenting Tip of the Day: don't resort to Tasering."