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The Changing Definition of “Dad”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Kathleen Webb

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