by Todd Chance
The concept of coming home from work to be greeted at the door by your wife in an apron, a cold drink, and dinner cooking in the kitchen is about as alien to many of today’s fathers as life without cell phones and remote controls.
Times have changed, and so has the role of fatherhood.
Two-income families are now the norm, and many men assume their spouse will hold a job while they commit themselves to be more involved in parenting. But while much attention has been paid to the equality of women in the workplace and the struggle to balance home and work, a new generation of fathers find themselves in a similar spot but still misrepresented in media, society, and courtrooms.
We aren’t the bumbling parental invalids that sitcoms and commercials portray us to be. We aren’t our father’s father who played the role of disciplinarian and financial provider and little more. Today’s involved Dads want to play an equally active part as a caregiver in nurturing our children. You may have come across one of us recently. We’re popping up in daycare facilities, gym and dance classes, even nail salons.
There are more of us than you think. Father-focused research over the past 30 years has brought new data. In just one generation, the number of hours fathers spend time playing with their kids has tripled, over half of us do the cooking and grocery shopping, and science has validated the effect and importance a father has as a caregiver in the lives of his children even before they are born.
While over 60 percent of us take paternity leave, it is normal for it to be unpaid or for vacation days to be used. Even with the passage of the United States Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, only California, New Jersey, and Washington have implemented paid paternity leave programs.
Gender norms are slowly blurring, and good fathers unafraid to do what it takes to be the Dad their children need have stepped up. We braid hair, feed and rock babies to sleep, change diapers, and paint nails. Here’s the secret: We really enjoy it.
“Time is a finite currency best spent on things that matter, things that will last. For an increasing number of men, moments and memories with our children are topping that list.”
But it isn’t so much what we do with our kids as it is the time we spend with them. Time is the most valuable commodity any parent can have. More time means more memories, more mistakes and time to fix them, more chill time, play time, or time to simply watch them sleep while we imagine their future and all they will become.
That same time benefits our kids as well. It has been proven that an active and involved father reduces teen pregnancy, disciplinary problems, and drug use while increasing graduation rates, literacy, and self-confidence.
Fathers who are parenting with purpose long for workplace flexibility, equal rights for divorced fathers, and a better representation of who we are in the media. We look for a day when a picture of a man brushing his daughter’s hair won’t be so astonishing that it goes viral on Facebook and gets national media attention.
For most of us, an emotional umbilical cord is permanently attached to our kids long before and after the physical one is cut.
Time is a finite currency best spent on things that matter, things that will last. For an increasing number of men, moments and memories with our children are topping that list. So for Father’s Day this year, you might consider something other than a present we can unwrap. The best gift is the opportunity to spend time with our kids without distractions.
While the bigger picture of a father’s role continues to evolve, I’ll keep doing what I love to do – spending time with my daughter and encouraging other dads to become more involved.
Keep the latest iPhone or gadget, barbecue grill, or new tie for Christmas or a birthday. You might be surprised at how many Dads just want to hang with the kids.
Todd is the founder of Daddy Daughter Time, which offers monthly events and activities for men with daughters while supplying information to help fathers build relationships with their kids. He is the father of an adorable 5-year-old daughter. www.daddydaughtertime.com.