Kevin has started taking over more child-care duties – getting the kids off the bus, feeding them dinner, taking them to baseball practice – and doing more housework. The change in roles has helped them keep the refrigerator stocked and develop new empathy for what the other does. But Kevin could do without the housework, and Cheryl says that while it's nice to have her husband better appreciate all she did as a stay-at-home mom, she'd trade that for her old life – instantly.
"I come home at night and I see my little baby here sleeping," she says. "I miss the older two because they're in school all day. I look at them and I just start crying. I hate this. I loved being a stay-at-home mom because everything was done around the house; I loved playing with them and watching them grow. I want to cherish all the time I have with them. But with the economy the way that it is, I feel like I'm robbed of that."
Manufacturing and construction might be among the recession's hardest-hit industries. But even outside those sectors, men have lost twice as many jobs as women; economists say they are seeing gender imbalances at all socioeconomic levels.
The percentage of men giving up on the job search has also risen sharply. Since December 2007, the male unemployment rate – the percentage of people who are looking for, but have not yet found, work – has increased steadily during this recession, hitting 9.4 percent in April. But the number of men who, each month, go from the "unemployed" category to not looking for work at all has also grown significantly.
Researchers say it will be months, if not years, before they have any solid data on what these men are doing – whether they are going to school, staying home with children, or simply giving up. All they can say for sure is that the changes are huge.