Times – they are a-changing. One of the biggest and best changes of all, is that dads today are stepping up to the mark and spending more time than ever before with their children. And it’s making a big difference. It’s changing the way kids see the world and see their place within it. Research shows it’s making them happier, healthier and even smarter. Involved dads become happier, kids are happier and mothers are happier too.
Research shows that dads are now spending three times as much time with their children than fathers did two generations ago. They’re now much more involved in childcare, putting in on average around 8 hours a week looking after their kids. That’s triple the time dads spent doing childcare in 1965.
You don’t have to go back too far to find a time when it was mums who took on the lion’s share of the childcare. Dads would wet the baby’s head in the pub rather than attending the birth, they shied away from changing nappies and took a backseat when it came to being hands on with parenting. Dads have always been important to their children and a vital role model. But today they are taking on even more of the childcare and it’s reaping rewards.
Nappy dodging is now a thing of the past
It’s hard to believe but as recently as 1982 a whopping 43% of dads admitted that they’d never changed their baby’s nappy. Today that figure’s down to only 3%. This is great news, since studies also show that the more involved dads are with their baby’s care, the stronger the father-child relationship grows.
Dads are helping out more around the house too
Today’s dads are not just stepping up when it comes to childcare but they’re doing their share of the chores too.
A recent study showed that dads today devote 30 minutes more to household chores than their own fathers did. Aside from the practical help this gives to the home, it also benefits their families on many other levels. It teaches our children that cleaning and chores are not just women’s work. It makes their partners feel that they are more part of an equal partnership, where day to day tasks are more evenly shared, regardless of gender.
This gradual equalling out of chores and childcare is good for relationships too. A study found that when the lion’s’ share of domestic duties lands on mums, their relationships with their partners suffer. When dads pull their weight and stack the dishwasher or cook meals, stronger relationships are formed.
It’s still not an equal playing field
Research has shown that dads have taken great strides over the past 50 years. They are now doing more than ever when it comes to hands-on parenting and household chores. But even though dads today are doing so much more, there’s still an imbalance between the sexes.
With so many dads feeling the responsibility to finance their family, they also suffer dad guilt about the time their jobs take them away from their children.
A recent study found that mums carve out less than an hour of me-time in a week, but dads manage to enjoy more than two. And when on duty, mums multi task more than dads (although sometimes that’s just circumstance).
What research has shown is that parents tend to split the childcare and the household chores during the working week. However, when it comes to weekends dads tend to relax more and let their partners take on the lion’s share of family work.
Lead researcher Jill Yavorsky said:
On non-workdays, parents are more evenly splitting housework and childcare. It’s very much ‘all hands on deck’ but when there is more time available on the weekend and parents are not so pressed to get everything done, then we see the emergence of gendered patterns and inequality where women do a lot more housework and childcare while he leisures.
Dads need support too
Times are changing but there’s still a long way to go in terms of how society views dads and their role.
Just recently, in October 2018 Piers Morgan ruffled more than a few feathers, when he suggested that it’s emasculating for dads to wear their baby in a papoose. He posted a photo of Daniel Craig carrying his baby in a sling and tweeted:
Oh 007.. not you as well?!!! #papoose #emasculatedBond.
It’s an extreme view on masculinity but an example of how much societal views need to change, before it’s seen to be completely the norm for dads to be equal when it comes to parenting.
What is more powerful than tweets by Piers Morgan, are posts from celebrity dads who are not afraid to share their feelings and talk with honestly about their roles as a father. One celeb dad who is paving the way to change views is The Rock. After the birth of his third daughter he wrote this beautiful post on Instagram :
When someone like The Rock speaks so beautifully about his role as a husband, as a birth partner and as a daddy then it can help other dads feel able to speak out too.
Today’s dads can have a thriving and flexible career while still being involved dads. Today’s dads can stay at home and look after their kids while their wife works. They are lucky enough to have opportunities their grandfathers didn’t, like watching the birth of their child.
By being emotionally present and available, involved dads are also nurturing their children’s well being. By being more present in their lives, they are giving them the opportunity to grow into happy, healthy, well-rounded adults.
It’s great for the dads, it’s great for the mums and it’s great for the kids too.
See our article 8 great ways to start dad and baby bonding and get involved right from those first days.
- “The Division of Child Care, Sexual Intimacy, and Relationship Quality in Couples”, Sage journals
- Dads are often having fun while moms work around the house
- “Fathers’ Involvement With Their Children: United States, 2006–2010”, by Jo Jones, William Mosher
- “7 Facts about American Dads”, Kim Parker and Gretchen Livingston