Ever since my little one was born, I have tried my best to be an emotionally engaged, supportive, and involved modern dad.
I took a ten week parental leave to spend as much time with my daughter just before she turned one. I am usually the one to drop her off and pick her up from day care. I make sure I spend time goofing off with her in the evenings, and every Saturday we hang out for hours somewhere outdoors to do some bonding.
She’s my buddy. It’s great to be an involved dad.
When I chat with people from older generations about my experiences with dadhood, they often tell me how things have drastically changed. How dads used to never spend much time with the kids, how nearly all childcare used to be provided by moms.
These older folks then tell me how great it is that things have changed. I suppose things really have changed a lot.
The roles of modern dads have changed dramatically from previous generations
There is a pretty big shift in how dads perceive themselves compared to just a couple of generations ago, where the father was the head of the family, the breadwinner, and the disciplinarian.
These days, modern dads still take a leadership role in the family, but in many more ways than just economic. Dads are way more involved with child-rearing and the day-to-day running of the household. While there is always grumbling over who does the housework (both moms and dads alike), there certainly has been more attention on raising the kids, particularly with the father stepping up to the plate in recent times.
The emotionally engaged and supportive father was born from huge technological, economic, and cultural shifts
From my own experience growing up, dads were the breadwinners. They were the ones to go out and hunt the big prey. While I knew some kids back then who had their moms go out into the workforce, the mothers still bore the brunt of the childrearing.
These days practically everyone I know is part of a double-income family. In Canada, where I live, the percentage of families with two employed parents doubled from 1976 to 2015—from 36% to 69%. With so many moms pushed out to the workforce, the dads get pushed increasingly more towards child-rearing.
And, really, all the dads I know love it. Most dads I know are products of disengaged and aloof fathers, and most have drive to get away from that attitude when raising their own families.
Time with your kids is really good for them. Recent research into paternal involvement shows that kids whose fathers spend a lot of time and affection with them tend to have higher IQs, greater social acumen… and may even live longer. Researchers studying data from 20 American cities showed that the loss of a father through death, divorce, or incarceration actually shortens the telomeres in the DNA strands in children (telomere length is a marker for longevity).
The Internet has also changed how modern dads raise their kids. In both the past and present, guys don’t spend hours talking about child-rearing techniques among themselves. Moms do that plenty, and that is how they get a large bulk of their information, by sharing amongst themselves.
With the Internet, men finally have an infinite resource of information on how to raise their kids and so they tend to go there for guidance. Dudes just don’t stand around in a bar and discuss diapers. But they definitely hop online to learn about how to ace dadhood.
Media and advertising still has to catch up with the story of the involved dad
Most of the dads that I know are incredibly engaged and involved with their children; however, I feel that the story of the modern engaged dad has yet to catch on in the media and advertising.
Consider child-care information. The majority of books out there are still targeted towards moms, with very little dad-specific literature.
Also, if you take a look at most TV shows, there generally aren’t well-fleshed-out stories about a young, modern couple with a baby or a toddler, because maybe there isn’t as much a chance for watchable drama without much older kids around.
But young couples with a baby or a toddler are exactly where millennial parents are today. So, yeah, I think that there is a lag time in terms of the story of the modern engaged dad. Probably the closest thing I’ve seen on TV in terms of hyper-involved dads with a toddler are the gay couple on Modern Family, so maybe that’s the cutting edge right there.
When it comes to advertisements, all the marketing of baby products are still very much targeted towards moms. There’s still this favored stereotype of the bumbling dad in the media, which honestly is not the experience among my peer group.
There was this Huggies commercial a little while back that said that the ultimate test of their diapers was to drive-test their use with a group of dads—implying that most dads are too incompetent to handle baby care. There was a backlash against the brand—by dads, no less—and Huggies pulled the ads. Hell, I’ve changed way more diapers than my wife has.
There’s just not that much out there about how the modern day dad can’t wait to get home to see their kid’s smile, or to scrounge up some time to monkey around with them in the playground, or patiently putting their kid to sleep. That’s my life right now, and I love it.
I get the sense that guys are hungry for knowledge on how to be a great dad from the feedback I get from this blog and from my recent book, A Man’s Guide to Newborn Babies. Men email me and tell me that no one has ever taught them all this new dad stuff before–I guess that’s why I put up this blog, and am writing my books for dads. I hope you can join in my own personal journey by revisiting my blog from time to time.
‘Till next time,