A vacuum sits idle in Russell Jackson's West Valley City living room, a reminder of chores interrupted by 2-year-old Arikka's diaper change, a phone call and then lunch.
Miles away on another afternoon in West Jordan, Rusty Scott helps Gabriel, Samuel and Millie with homework before heading to piano practice. Dinner will have to wait.
They wipe noses, kiss boo-boo's, shuttle kids to school and are the first to respond to midnight terrors -- not what Jackson expected after "a lifetime" of paid work, or what Scott had in mind when he graduated from the University of Utah's engineering program.
But it's the fate dealt them by a recession that found both men out of work and settling into the role of stay-at-home dad.
"The housework is a little monotonous, mindless. But I cherish the time with my kids. It's a completely new world for me," Scott said.
For years, fathers have been quitting or retooling careers to stay home with their children. Roughly 140,000 husbands did so last year while their wives worked, a number amounting to 2.5 percent of all stay-at-home parents. That percentage has grown by one-third compared with 2002, according to U.S. Census data.
But the nation's economic woes -- dubbed by some the "he-cession" because men have lost the lion's share of jobs -- promises to fuel new growth in the stay-at-home dad market.
"There are a lot of dads out there suddenly spending more time with their kids and looking on the Internet for ideas about how to do it," said Bob Elston, host of "The Rain Racer," a blog devoted to helping fathers "raise their daddy game."
The former Utah journalist lost his job doing market research in Alexandria, Va. But instead of dwelling on the downsides, he "doubled-down" on his parenting.
"Papering the town with résumés can be tough. I can think of no better way to offset that disappointment than to go out and spend time with your kids," said the father of four.
To keep his mind and writing skills fresh, Elston also started blogging, and in five weeks has logged 1,100 visitors.
Today's stay-at-home dads benefit from a bevy of Web sites, blogs and support groups, even an annual convention. They've become a common fixture at PTA meetings, some men's restrooms sport diaper changing tables, and "Mr. Mom" is part of popular vernacular.
But the stigma of having failed as a breadwinner and provider remains, and is compounded for so-called "recession dads."
"The first week was filled with a lot of emotions, anger mostly, then fear for my family's situation, and a lot of depression and sleepless nights," said Jackson, who became the sole caretaker of his two girls, ages 2 and 10, when Precision Cabinet Doors, the family business, started going bust. His wife works nights for the LDS Church's printing division and picks up odd cleaning jobs.
Job losses this recession have been in male-dominated fields like manufacturing and construction, said Mark Knold, chief economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Men now account for 65 percent of Utah's unemployment claims, maybe more by year's end. That's up from 60 percent in 2007 (from December 2006 to December 2007).
Women, meanwhile, are on the verge of outnumbering men in the work force for the first time.
Women held 49.83 percent of the nation's 132 million jobs in June, due in part, to their foothold in thriving sectors such as education and health care, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said last week.
At the current pace, women workers will claim a majority by October or November, the bureau predicts.
The shift has profound implications for how children are growing up, said Kim Korinek, a University of Utah sociology professor who teaches a class on the sociology of gender and sexuality.
Families, traditional and nontraditional, vary on how they divide household labor, but many bread-winning moms report doing double duty with a full day's work and domestic chores, Korinek said. Women also tend to do more of the coordinating and detail work around organizing kids' lives, scheduling soccer practice and dentist appointments.
As they move into the work force and retreat from these roles, Korinek said, "the question becomes, will there be a shift in the type and amount of close care and interaction children receive?"
Traditionally, the decision to become a stay-at-home dad boils down to finances. The wife earns more or has greater earning potential.
Recession dads didn't have a choice. And for some, the role reversal is temporary.
"Unemployment won't cover house payments very long and our savings are dwindling quickly. If I don't find a job soon, I'll have to sell the house and move to Atlanta to live with family members," Jackson said.
Others telecommute or are taking odd consulting jobs.
Stay-at-home dad Bryant Hansen of Salt Lake started an outdoor advertising brokerage in his "spare time." His wife works at a local college while he raises their 2-year-old son.
"My schedule is more flexible, so I'm pretty much the go-to guy during the day," said Hansen, the casualty of layoffs at Caterpillar Inc., where he had hoped to retire. "You make do."
But for Scott, the switch is longer term.
The 41-year-old electrical engineer lost his job last October. But the timing couldn't have been better.
A month later, Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz -- the man for whom his wife, Jennifer campaigned -- was elected to office. She was rewarded for her efforts with a full-time job managing the congressman's district office.
"It was important to us to have one parent at home," Scott said. "So when she was offered the job, I said, 'Here's your chance to go out and see what you can do. You'd probably second-guess yourself if you didn't take it.' "
It was a "pay cut" for the family, meaning fewer vacations and date nights. And Scott says the days can be lonely and monotonous.
"A lot of women in our neighborhood were in my wife's social network. I don't interact with them much," said Scott. "You get looks and side comments. They joke about whether I've learned to do laundry yet or cook."
But even in conservative Utah, half of his male buddies "are jealous and say, 'How can I get in on something like that?' " The other half, said Scott, "wonder why I'm not looking for a job."
Scott hasn't ruled out returning to the work force. He's toying with getting his MBA and launching a small business.
"This is an opportunity," he said, "to sit back with less pressure and say, 'Where do I go next?' "
"I would never rely on an occasional chat with the football coach to measure my kids' progress. But when it comes to the classroom, I have too often looked to the once-a-year parent-teacher conference to tell me most of what I know about my three children's schooling."
-- excerpt from "A recession dad's to-do list," on Bob Elston's http://therainracer.wordpress.com/" Target="_BLANK">"Rain Racer" blog.
Online resources for stay at home dads, or SAHD's: