It was a hot sunny day when Aaron Traister took his children to play at their local park this week. Like all doting dads, the 35-year-old cherishes those precious moments of quality time with the kids. “It was beautiful. It reminded me of the mornings I used to spend with them when they were little before they started going to school,” he said.

Yet despite their rapid rise, the idea of the breadwinner mom remains a contentious one for many Americans, with a majority still placing the onus on women when it comes to childcare. Just over half of those surveyed by Pew said that children were better off if their mother stayed at home and didn’t hold a job. Only 8 per cent said the same about fathers.

“The public has real hesitation about the impact this trend has had on children,” said Kim Parker, co-author of the study. “There is a gap. At the same time that women are reaching this equal level in terms of earning power and representation in the workforce, there are these still deeply ingrained feelings about motherhood and fatherhood. Those views are changing but they’re changing slowly and they’re not keeping pace with the dramatic demographic changes we’re seeing.”

Observers attribute the increase in wives out-earning their husbands to women being better educated than ever, often more so than their male counterparts. “The educational advantage is starting to show,” said Liza Mundy, author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family. More strikingly still, when mothers are the main breadwinner, overall household income tends to be higher.

The rise of the breadwinner mom it’s the women bringing home the bacon

Ms Mundy added that economic changes meant that jobs men once relied upon no longer provided a secure source of income. “The recession exacerbated it,” she said. It is a truism that Mr Traister, who used to work with young offenders, knows only too well. “We said let’s give this a try,” he said of the decision to stay at home while his wife went to work. “And it worked really, really well. But then economy crashed. It was not a long-term plan but it’s become that way.”

He said that after the recession hit Philadelphia in 2009-10, he noticed an increase in his community in the number of families adopting the breadwinner mother/stay-at-home-father model. “At that point, the park was swamped with dads.”

While Mr Traister, who now works part-time from home as a writer, says the move has been a good one – “we have a very happy marriage” – he admits he struggled to reconcile himself to the role. “It’s still an adjustment. The hard part was realising that I was in this situation for the long haul. It would a lie to say that it didn’t affect how I felt about myself as a man.”

Even the most successful breadwinner mothers themselves have had to battle their own preconceptions about how families should be run. “The idea that a man should provide and he should bring resources to the family is very deeply ingrained in some women,” said Ms Mundy. She said the arrangement presented a “great opportunity” for women. “We talk so much about wanting to have more women in CEO positions and in higher office and until we are comfortable with women as the higher earner and lead worker in a certain number of households we are not going to have that. It can work very well.

“We’re drawn to the idea that this is going to be toxic and women are going to be punished for their success and that men are floundering. That’s true in some cases, but it’s working out fine for a lot of couples.”

She added that the disparity between the rise of breadwinner mothers and attitudes towards them could be seen in the childcare system. “The fact that there is such ambivalence towards working mothers is why we don’t have more and better daycare, it’s why we don’t have better mechanisms to enable women to work and to enable children to be well cared-for,” she said.

For Traci Feit Love, 35, an ex lawyer who went to Harvard Law School and is now a company Vice President, it was an easy decision for both herself and her husband as to who should return to work when her daughter, Carly, was born. “It made more financial sense. I was in a position to earn more,” Ms Feit Love, who describes herself as having a “Type A” personality, said. “I also guess I am very business and career-focused whereas he is not.”

Ms Feit Love, founder of the website and blog, said that she had met women earning more than their husbands who were embarrassed by their position. “I’ve spoken with breadwinner moms who were actually ashamed to talk about it. They get that question: “what does your husband do?” and it puts them in a very awkward state of mind. In many cases I think they feel as though what their husband does somehow reflects on their worth.”

As for her own situation? “I always knew that I wasn’t going to be a traditional kind of mom. And that’s ok with me,” she says.

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