SYCAMORE – Nik Kousoulas became a stay-at-home father about 12 years ago, when a disability and diminished job opportunities kept him from working in construction.
Kousoulas, a married father of three children in Sycamore, collects disability and social security payments for a total of less than $700 a month, while his wife works at a fast-food restaurant.
While he wouldn’t say they are struggling financially, the family does not have Internet service at their home. But Kousoulas said his life is enjoyable.
“We live as simply as possible,” he said. “I make about everything we could possibly need.”
Kousoulas is part of a growing trend of stay-at-home dads. A new analysis from the Pew Research Center shows 16 percent of stay-at-home parents were fathers in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1989.
The research found illness or disability was the main reason why fathers chose to stay at home full-time, followed by an inability to find a job. Another reason – being home to care for the family – more than quadrupled to 21 percent in 2012 from 5 percent in 1989.
Taking care of the family is the reason Genoa resident Matthew Evans gave for staying at home with his two daughters, ages 6 and 3 years. A former “grease monkey” in the automotive industry, Evans quit his job about 2 1/2 years ago to help raise his younger daughter.
“I would rather stay at home and raise my daughters than throw my child into day care,” he said.
Evans’ wife works for the Department of Children and Family Services and was more satisfied with her job, he said. Meanwhile, Evans wasn’t getting as much satisfaction as he is now getting as a stay-at-home dad.
“I find it a lot more rewarding than being out in workforce,” he said. “I do dishes, the laundry, grill during grill season. It’s a job.”
DeKalb resident Jon Sullivan spent more than a year caring for his three children, but to bring in more money for the family, he is now working part-time as an assistant manager at a grocery store. Sullivan still takes care of his kids when he isn’t working.
Sullivan was laid off from his job as a preschool teacher in 2012, so his time as a stay-at-home dad was not voluntary. He took his children to the park, read books with them and played with Play-Doh while looking for work. Once the school year started, he stopped job-searching.
“I don’t want to be in the same situation where they let me go again,” Sullivan said. “What I’m doing now is pretty consistent.”
Besides, Sullivan said watching his children grow while being a stay-at-home dad was rewarding.
“It’s definitely worth it,” he said. “It’s something you can never get back.”
Kousoulas would agree.
He spends time teaching his children how to build things. As a family, they created a tree house from start to finish all in one day, he said.
Kousoulas also taught his children how to walk, talk, ride a bike and use in-line skates.
“So many dads are out working. They’re out living their busy lives,” Kousoulas said. “I feel special because I get to see all of that.”
This Father’s Day weekend, Kousoulas is camping in the town of Oregon with his children, participating in activities such as fishing, hiking and swimming. The family also traveled to Oregon last year for an entire week, so it has become a family tradition.
As for Sullivan, he is getting a new grill for Father’s Day.
“The major plan is just to relax,” he said, “and eat barbecue.”
By the numbers
Reasons for dads staying at home in 2012
Illness or disability: 35 percent
Inability to find work: 23 percent
In school/retired/other: 22 percent
Caring for the family: 21 percent
Reasons for dads staying at home in 1989
Illness or disability: 56 percent
In school/retired/other: 25 percent
Inability to find work: 15 percent
Caring for the family: 5 percent
Source: Pew Research Center