The changing role of the modern dad

In the lead up to Father’s Day, let’s talk about dads. The lines that once defined a father’s role have become blurred. The Tot takes a look at what it means to be a modern dad.

Only a short time ago, the role dads played in the household was quite different. However, no longer is it only the dads that ‘work’ and moms that ‘work in the home.’ Instead, the lines that defined a dad’s role have become blurred. Now, more so than ever, it’s not surprising for dad to be the homemaker, while mom “brings home the bacon.” And, it’s not just socio-economic factors at play here, but it’s also a shift in society’s expectations for how a father should interact with his children.

Today, there is a much greater emphasis on a dad’s involvement in his child’s life. Research has shown that the involvement of a father is associated with several positive characteristics in children such as increased empathy, self-esteem, self-control, confidence, psychological well-being, social competence, life skills, educational success, and a reduction in gender-stereotyped beliefs.

The 21st century dad is more involved in the emotional support of his family than his father was, and much more so than his father’s father. Now, beginning with the pregnancy and birth of the child, dads play a more hands-on role. From attending doctor appintments, to being a labor coach during delivery, and helping with night-time diaper changes, dads are stepping up their game.

Roland Waren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible fatherhood, acknowledges that historically men are good at knowing that they need to be the provider, but with shifting roles most dads today understand that it is not enough to just provide, but they must also nurture and guide their child’s development.

The role of the modern day father can look quite different for each family. It could be coming home from work to spend time with the kids, extra involvement in a child’s education and extra-curricular activities, dropping off and picking up the kids from school, working part-time, or even being the primary care giver and a stay-at-home-dad. Some men still find challenges in how to become involved, they may know they need to be active and hands-on in the child’s life, but are not sure how to effectively contribute. This is where mothers can encourage the father to capitalize on his strengths to create certain bonding opportunities or provide scenarios for the father to connect with the child.

From a statistical standpoint, the current percentage of true stay-at-home-dads is vague based on how it is defined by different sources. An analysis of the 2014 U.S. census data showed an estimated 1.9 million fathers—16% of the stay-at-home parent population—remained home with the kids. Many couples are deciding it makes sense for their family needs to have one parent stay at home, but in some cases the woman is earning more or chooses to continue growing in her career path. This is a personal decision each couple must make for themselves and determine what works best for their family dynamics.

With this number of stay-at-home parents on the rise, there is a greater awareness of the loneliness and lack of resources for stay-at-home-dads. Many fathers interviewed said they love being at home with the children, but they realize that it is the hardest job they have ever had—as well as a very lonely one, at times. The loneliness factor is something we often hear mothers talk about. But, if you have the ability and desire, there are a range of mom groups or mommy-and-me classes, and you try to find other moms with similar interests. Whereas with a stay-at-home-dad it can be harder to find other men staying at home, or groups or activities that are beneficial for both child and father. Another challenge can be the stereotypes associated with being stay-at-home-dads.

So, the next time you meet a stay-at-home-dad, make an effort to engage him in conversation. We are all working towards the same goal: raising a child. It is time to move past the stereotypes and remember: everyone is trying to do what’s best for their family and children.