Forget the idea of a bumbling, hapless Mr. Mom, fumbling through changing diapers, panicking at the thought of bottle-feeding the baby, or recoiling in horror at the notion of giving his toddler a bath. Today’s dads are engaged, view themselves as every bit Mom’s equal, and are sick and tired of being pilloried in the media. A recent survey of 1,319 parents conducted by Men’s Health Magazine revealed some interesting behavioral trends.
Three-quarters of fathers now say they were, or plan to be, at home for several days immediately following the birth of their child, doing chores and attending the baby – triple the number from 2006. Also, while 3 in 5 dads say the idea to have a child was made jointly with their partners, a quarter say the pregnancy was unplanned, a threefold increase from seven years ago.
Overall, fathers report being very active in all phases of pregnancy and childbirth. Eighty percent of men attend most of their partner’s doctor appointments; three-quarters are always accessible by cell phone during the pregnancy; and two-thirds said they give their partner massages. Three out of 5 dads say they cut or plan to cut their baby’s umbilical cord.
The bottom line: Nearly two-thirds of dads say they’re more involved in the physical aspects of caring for their children – changing diapers, making meals, giving baths – than their dads were.
The impact of having a baby on Mom and Dad’s relationship also reflects a key generational shift. When asked if having a child drew them closer to their spouse or instead, increased stress, 20 percent of 40-plus dads said it drew them closer, while a third said it increased stress on the relationship. For dads under 30, the numbers were reversed. This trend suggests the long-held belief that children were a drag on relationships may be changing.
More good news: the survey found that on a wide number of issues – how much free time dads have, how overwhelmed their partners felt, as well as how overwhelmed they felt – dads today are less frustrated.
Some things, however, never change. The top three things dads do: Take care of the house (mow the lawn, change light bulbs), take care of the car and manage the money. The bottom three things dads do: Shop for toys, shop for clothes and clean the home (mopping, sweeping, tidying up).
One sign of discord is that dads believe they do more work around the house than moms give them credit for. Dads are 50 percent more likely to say they do the laundry; dads give themselves more credit for helping with the children; and dads are a third more likely to say they do at least half of childcare at home.
On that front, dads say they already are. Asked, “Do you consider yourself an involved dad who does at least 50 percent of the childcare in your home?” fully 87 percent said yes. When asked if they would make career decisions based on their parenting obligations, half of the fathers said they would sacrifice a promotion at work if it meant spending less time with the family.
These results do not change by generation. Fathers of all ages simply accept that both parents are balancing home and work. Two-thirds of fathers in all age groups say, “We both have careers and take care of the kids equally.”
A higher percentage of younger fathers, though, appear to embrace this reality. When given a choice of the reasons they are so involved with their kids, the vast majority of dads opted for “It’s important to me. I want to be a great dad and close to our children.” And that number is increasing among young fathers. Sixty-one percent of dads over 40 picked that answer, which rose to 79 percent among dads under 30.
As one dad said, “I changed my career to be home more for the family. Being a dad is the most important thing in the world.”
The survey did detect one strong area of dissatisfaction. Dads are annoyed by how they are portrayed in the media. Asked how they feel about the spate of recent reports suggesting involved dads are a trend, the fathers in the survey pushed back. Half said being an involved dad isn’t a trend; it’s just the way things are. But a third said there hasn’t been enough media attention on the evolving role of fatherhood. “We’re ignored!” they said.
Some, meanwhile, said they were frustrated by lingering stereotypes. As one observed, “I love how close I am with my daughter, and my wife really appreciates everything I do for them. But the, ‘Oh, you’re spending the day with Dad’ comments piss me off. I usually respond, ‘That’s called every day.'”
Books available at amazon.com Click on titles to order.
by Sheryl Sandberg
“Dads in Ads, Changing Trends in Fatherhood”
by Jonathan H. Liu
“Father’s Day Spending to Reach Record-High”
by Ana Serafin Smith
Father’s Day Survey Highlights (Data and Graphs)
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