Where Are All The Stay-At-Home Dads On Film And TV?

Sometimes an idea for a blog post doesn’t quite go as you intended. This is one of those occasions. You see, as a SAHD with nearly two years under my (ever-expanding) belt, I thought it’d be good to write a post to highlight other stay-at-home dads on film and TV. A kind of celebration of all the dads who are giving a middle finger to traditional gender stereotypes by raising the kids.

I’d not given it much thought, but I assumed that there’d be plenty of options to choose from. I was wrong. As I sat down with fingers eagerly on keys, nothing came to me. The plethora of modern dads who I expected to celebrate, just didn’t pop into my head. Where are all the stay-at-home dads on TV and film?

Actually, I lie. One SAHD did come to mind, but he wasn’t quite the role model I pictured. The person in question was Joe Miller from Broadchurch – you know, the alleged groomer, paedophile and murderer. Although he looked like a good husband and dad from the outside [green tick for stay-at-home dads], he ended up being a little – how should I put it – confused and disturbed [red cross for stay-at-home dads]. Obviously you can’t be normal if you’re a SAHD…

where are all the sahds stay-at-home dads on tv joe miller broadchurch

This really started to gnaw at me. Surely he wasn’t the only one on film and TV. I began to run through all of the programmes I could thing of – the ones I watch, the ones I watch with the missus and the kids’ shows I watch with Toddler L. I was struggling. One after another, I had to rule them out on the grounds of them not being a stay-at-home dad. Did my TV really not represent the idea that the dad can be at home as the mum works?

Then I got a hit. Doc McStuffins! A show that breaks down so many other stereotypes, obviously had to be the one to normalise the role of stay-at-home dads. If you’re unfamiliar, Doc McStuffins is about a girl who wants to follow in her mum’s footsteps to become a doctor – she does this by practising medicine on her stuffed toys who come to life.

where are all the sahds stay-at-home dads on tv doc mcstuffins

Not only does Doc McStuffins feature a black family (quite rare for kids’ TV) and a successful working mum (quite rate for kids’ TV), but the character of Dottie is a great role model (quite rare for kids’ TV). Considering it’s Disney, there’s none of the usual ‘girls must be princessy’ rhetoric, instead it focuses on things like friendship, being kind and determination. Throw into the mix that the dad is a SAHD who competently cooks, cleans and raises the kids, then it’s pretty much ticked most of the ‘not normal’ boxes.

At this point, I turned to Google and social media for help. I was obviously just being a bit stupid with my inability to remember all of the SAHDs. Here’s where things got interesting. Most of the people I found and who were mentioned – which weren’t many – didn’t really fit into my definition of a stay-at-home dad.

For me, a SAHD is a choice – not something you’re forced into. Most of the examples of dads spending time with their kids appeared to be because the partner had died / left, or they’d lost their job. Don’t believe me? Then think about films with positive dad and child relationships such as:

  • Marlin in Finding Nemo (wife dies)
  • Will Smith in Pursuit Of Happyness (wife leaves)
  • Mel Gibson in Signs (wife dies)
  • Eric Bana in Hanna (wife dies)
  • Eddie Murphy in Daddy Day Car (loses job)
  • Adam Sandler in Big Daddy (kid left at door, plus it wasn’t actually his baby)
  • Michael Keaton in Mr Mom (loses job)
  • Matt Damon in We Bought A Zoo (wife dies)
  • Tom Hanks in Sleepless In Seattle (wife dies)
  • Ned Flanders in The Simpsons (wife dies)
  • Georgle Clooney in The Descendents (wife in accident)
  • Joe West In The Flash (wife leaves)
  • Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire (wife leaves)
  • Liam Neeson in Love Actually (wife dies)
  • Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg in Three Men And A Baby (baby left at door)

There’s no doubt that the above characters all do a great job as a dad. They are thrown into a difficult situation, and despite struggling to find a balance, they ultimately show dedication, love and an ability to cope. It’s a great narrative, but there isn’t a ‘proper’ SAHD in sight. FYI, I’m not saying a single dad isn’t as good as a stay-at-home dad or any of that crap. I’m purely pointing out that none of the above were SAHD until tragedy hit and *made* them become one.

Other suggestions were made / found too. These kind of fitted the bill, but weren’t great. Again, I don’t see any of these as being stay-at-home dads:

  • Flop in Bing (Wikipedia says he’s Bing’s carer, not dad)
  • David in Alvin And The Chipmunks (Surely more of a pet owner than a dad?)
  • The Man with the Yellow Hat in Curious George (Surely more of a pet owner than a dad?)
  • Geppetto in Pinocchio (Surely more of a toy owner than a dad?)
  • Frank Gallagher in Shameless (More of an unemployed, alcoholic dad than a stay-at-home dad)
  • The Gruffalo in Gruffalo’s Child (Not enough backstory to decide. Is there a Mrs Gruffalo? If so, where is she? Either way, The Gruffalo is hardly real…I hope…)

where are all the sahds stay-at-home dads on tv gruffalos child

So, after all of this research and exasperation, what am I left with? The truth is not a lot. Considering all of the TV shows and all of the films, I’m left with seven recent SAHDs (two of which are from the same show and swapped roles for a while). Obviously there’ll be people that I’ve missed (including non-recent ones), but the fact that I’ve missed them is quite telling. My final list of SAHDs on TV and film is below:

  • Anders Holm (Matt Ostin) in The Intern
  • Nick Miles (Jimmy King) in Emmerdale
  • Ryan Eggold (Tom Keen) in The Blacklist
  • Eric Stonestreet (Cameron Tucker) in Modern Family
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell Pritchett) in Modern Family
  • Mr McStuffins in Doc McStuffins
  • Matthew Gravelle (Joe Miller) in Broadchurch

So what started out as a celebration of stay-at-home dads on screen has actually turned into a quite depressing hunt to actually find any. When more and more dads are staying home with the kids, it would appear that this isn’t being translated to film and TV, which in turn, is doing nothing to normalise what modern families look like these days.

As mentioned, there are some great films with positive dad characters who have a special bond with their kids. However, this bond only ever seems to come about when personal tragedy has been suffered, e.g. the wife dying or leaving. Wouldn’t it be great to see more shows like Doc McStuffins where the traditional family dynamic isn’t there? SAHDs, gay couples, blended families, single parents etc. Surely more needs to be done to reflect what society looks like in the mass media that we consume? How else are our kids going to grow up being balanced, fair and open?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Why do you think there aren’t more stay-at-home dads on TV / film? Are there any you can think of that I’ve not mentioned here? Let me know below!