Advertising
Advertising

The Changing Definition of “Dad”

The Changing Definition of “Dad”

As our culture evolves, so do our roles as parents, teachers, partners, and members of society. In the midst of this gradual evolution, the role of the father has been changing and shifting significantly. As contemporary fathers fit into a new and ever-changing mold of societal expectations, they are beginning to enjoy much more involvement in rearing their children, and in helping to find child care solutions for their family.

A Shift in Traditions

Historically, fathers have been viewed as the breadwinners and the problem-solvers of the household. They can fix broken toys, change lightbulbs, build sandboxes, and even confront that bully down the block. They also ensure that their brood is well-supported and financially provided for.

Advertising

The fathers of today are in a very different cultural environment than their fathers or grandfathers. They are having children much later in life. Traditional gender norms are less concrete than they once were, and often both parents often must be active in the workforce to make ends meet. This means that traditional responsibilities are shared, and fathers find themselves more involved in child-rearing, due to both desire and necessity.

More fathers today are changing diapers, cleaning up juice spills, reading bedtime stories, and taking their kids  to the playground. According to the Boston College Center for Work and Family, in 2011 more than two thirds of fathers believed that they were providing for their families financially, emotionally, and physically equally — and less than 5% of fathers felt their role was solely that of the financial provider. The 21st-century dad is hands-on with his kids, nurturing and guiding them just as much as mothers do.

Advertising

A Shift in Child Care Perceptions

The tides are also turning when it comes to primary breadwinners, as we see women beginning to swiftly catch up with men. Many parents find that as they both work outside of the home, they need help raising their children, and are turning to full-time nannies and caregivers for help. Where often the task of finding a trusted nanny and making sure they have everything they need has fallen on the mother, many fathers now want to be very involved in finding the right caregiver for their family, and providing well for their caregivers. After all, finding child care is a huge decision as a parent — you are choosing the person who will essentially become a partner in raising your child.

These days, dads are playing a part in everything from interviewing potential nannies to laying down the guidelines and schedules for their home caregiver. With more fathers involved in caring for their kids at home, 21st-century dads are just as likely as moms to be the ones that show the new nanny the ropes, answer calls or texts if the kids get sick, and discuss the terms of employment with their caregivers. As the perceptions of fatherhood shift in our society, we find that more fathers want to be in the loop in all aspects of their child’s care.

Advertising

The Makings of a True Partnership

The expectations set upon fathers are changing, and the expectation on fathers to be highly involved in the rearing of their children is increasing. In order for the definition of “dad” to be one of an equal partner in the act of child-care, fathers must be active participants from day one. This early bonding sets the stage for a positive relationship in later years, and helps the family build a strong and equal foundation for child-rearing.

Many outdated perceptions continue to plague the conversation about the father’s role in child-rearing and finding care for their children. General media portrayal of fathers are often outdated, and many employers make inaccurate assumptions about a father’s desire to take part in care-giving. Although the cultural perceptions are shifting, we still see unrealistic work/home expectations set for dads, and an inequality in the number of work-family programs targeted towards both genders.

Advertising

With strong desire, motivation, and support, fathers can be involved (and knowledgeable) in everything from buying baby formula to finding the right nanny and nurturing the parent-caregiver relationship. Obstacles are a natural part of any significant shift in societal perceptions — but fathers shouldn’t let outdated expectations or views affect how they care for their families, because the 21st century dad is well on his way to being accepted as an equal partner in caring for his family beyond the role of the breadwinner.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via thumb9.shutterstock.com

More by this author

Kathleen Webb

Co-Founder, HomeWork Solutions

nanny How to Increase Your Nanny’s Job Satisfaction nanny Understanding Your Nanny’s Annual Performance Review aging parent 5 Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance with Aging Parents Nanny The Nanny Tax Nightmare: Risks in Paying Domestic Workers Under The Table dad The Changing Definition of “Dad”

Trending in Fatherhood

1 5 Ways to Ease Back to Work Without Nanny Anxiety 2 Paternity: 7 ways of Establishing Who Fathered Your Child 3 When Should Your Teenager Start Dating? 4 His Dad Never Spoke His Mind. He Broke Down Once He Knew Why. 5 Dad Shows His Love To Daughter In A Heartbreaking Manner

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

Advertising

The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

Advertising

As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

Advertising

I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

Advertising

The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next