What does it take to be a modern dad? A few decades ago, dads were the sole breadwinners in most households and were responsible for the tasks of mowing the grass and rough housing with the kiddos. They were also most often the heated disciplinarian whose wrath was threatened by mom through out the day. ‘You just wait until your father gets home,’ your mom would say with exasperation and a pointed finger. (And boy did you worry!)
Today, however according to the United States Department of Labor statistics, there are around 200,000 stay at home dads who are taking on the responsibilities of raising the children and keeping the house tidy. That number is double what it was in 2004, and is likely to be steadily increasing as the economy stays in neutral and families are forced to find alternate options for their family. In some ways, it just makes sense if moms make more money than dad does, why should mom quit her job? The economic success of the family may depend on her salary. And if dad loses his job, why should a bi-working family pay the thousands of dollars in day care costs when there is a perfectly capable and albeit willing family member to take on the responsibility. And today’s modern dad is just that.
A survey taken by the enormous online employment agency Career Builder indicated that 4 out of every 10 working fathers would quit their jobs in a heartbeat in order to be a stay at home dad. They also averages that around 37% of the professional male workforce made up by married fathers are actively considering stay at home fatherhood as an option for their family. And mom is okay with this. In fact, around 80% of women polled in the survey admitted that they would be perfectly comfortable staying at work and allowing dad to become the modern day June Cleaver.
However, it takes more than just willingness in order to be a modern day dad. Today, with around 61% of all households comprised of TWO working adults, fathers are no longer confined to mowing grass and watching football games on Sundays. They are sharing the routine duties around the home, claiming no task big or small to be gender restricted. This means they are washing clothes, doing the dishes, mending buttons, vacuuming and taking care of the children in ways that has typically been reserved for moms. The best part is that with families now having two cooperative members of the household who both have financial autonomy, as well as social responsibility to raising the children and handling domestic duties, marriages can become even stronger! Perhaps the modern day dad epidemic will help to counteract the increasing divorce statistics over the last decade.
The question is, what does it take to be a modern dad?
- Willingness. As mentioned above, willingness is critical (but not EVERYTHING). There are still many men who would not feel comfortable being a stay at home modern day dad. These men are likely not comfortable doing the dishes, and leave grocery shopping to their wives. However, where there is a man willing to split domestic duties 50/50 and be extremely involved in the child rearing, there is a modern day dad in the making.
- Modern Idealism. Gender roles have been around since Roman times. A modern day dad is able to look past gender roles that have existed for centuries, and may even been passed down from his own parents. The times are changing, and with them many of these outdated ideas and expectations are falling by the wayside.
- Mutual Respect. It takes a big man to realize that expecting a wife/mother to wash his dirty underwear day in and day out is a tad disrespectful. The truth is that a modern dad is respectful of what his partner does every day and works honestly to provide mutual respect by way of attitude and actions.
- Ability to set aside the ego. The buddies down at the gym may not understand why you do so much around the house and with the kids, but the modern day dad doesn’t care. In fact, he feels so confident with his role in his marriage and as a father that the waning looks from the outside world have little to no effect on him.
- The ability to LOVE. A modern day dad is not worried about hugging too much, about giving kisses and about offering advice that breaks the confines of, ‘just suck it up!’ The truth is that dads have so much to offer children, many things moms cannot, and the person who experiences the most gain from a modern father is his children. The modern dad is not afraid to love, and doesn’t hide behind pride in his relationships with his children or partner.
- Self Confidence. He may not do things the way mom does, but he does them nonetheless, and has confidence in his abilities to navigate parenthood. Research has shown that men who take active roles in their family and serve as caretakers for their children problem solve in ways that are completely opposite from females. However, by having an active and involved father, children are able to learn from this duality and become better equipped to problem solve on their own in life.
- A partner that enables them. This quality is huge! Far too many women (wives and mothers) complain about the lacks of their husband, yet enable them to remain the way they are. Perhaps they are afraid of the competition, or want to cling onto their roll as mommy. Few women want to be outdone by a man when it comes to parenthood, right? WRONG! Modern men are enabled by modern women who aren’t threatened by men who are willing to lend a hand, take charge, and be involved.
The best news is that today, dad can be just as much a part of the familial picture as a mother. The only limitations are those that come from the mind. So much research has proved without a shadow of a doubt that when fathers choose to be committed to their families in the multitude of ways it takes to handle all the responsibilities involved, the family unit not only functions better, but also thrives. It will be amazing to see what the next decade has to offer, and just how much it changes the traditional role of dad.