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The Perfect Balance

One family’s approach

by julie burton

Sarah and Kit Stewart met in Iowa, fell in love and were married in 2001. Kit was a mechanical civil engineer and busy with his research for a biomechanics department looking at new and innovative options for hip and knee replacements. Sarah was in medical school on her way to becoming a family practice physician. They looked forward to raising kids and eventually moving to be closer to family.

Flash forward to the year 2009… Sarah is a family practice physician at Billings Clinic Red Lodge. Kit and Sarah have three beautiful children: Naomi is 6 years old; Jake is four years old; and Jonathan is 2 years old. The family has broken ground on their house that will be built on 30 acres of beautiful land in Luther. And Kit is entering his fourth year as the stay-at-home parent.

“I love what I do, and it has always been our dream to live in Montana,” said Sarah. “It just wasn’t an option for us both to work. Our family is stable and happy and content. This is so right for our family, and he is the best parent to stay home with our kids.”

Kit joins nearly 144,000 other stay-at-home dads. This figure reflects married fathers with children under 15 years old who have left the workforce for a period of at least one year to stay home to take care of children while their wife works outside of the home. Although this 144,000 is a small amount when compared to the 5.6 million moms who stay home, the balance is changing rapidly. Current figures show that 49.5% of the workforce is now female and that the number of stay at home dads has increased from 98,000 in 2003 to 144,000 in 2006. These figures are reported through the national government census and are expected to increase markedly in the next census.

For Kit and Sarah, the choice to have Kit stay home is a decision that was based on the needs of their family. Every family has some common necessities. There must be an income, the household chores need be completed, food must be bought and prepared, children must be cared for, etc. Kit and Sarah listed their priorities for their vision of family life and listed their needs. Their priority was to care for their home and to raise their own children. By choosing to have Kit stay home, they were thrilled that they no longer needed to outsource home services or daycare. They are living their dream.

Kit has a new respect for moms that choose to stay home to raise their children. “It’s not a job with designated hours. You are “on” mentally and physically all the time,” said Kit.

“He has always been a hands-on father from the day that Naomi was born,” said Sarah. “He has always been involved with feedings and diapers. While I was a resident, he had to take over with the kids and let me sleep. It is just the way we have always shared parenting.” SFM

Julie Burton has raised both of her teenagers in Billings. Her time is shared between attending high school sport events, spending time with her family, and working in Community Relations at Billings Clinic.