Stay-at-home dads: They used to be rare but, as discussed in a recent NPR article, they’re becoming more common. The emergence of the stay at home dad has brought a slew of parenting changes for the future.
A survey from the Pew Research Center found that dads have more than doubled their family involvement since 1965, that fewer dads are the sole bread-winner for their family, and that more dads see parenting as central to their identity.
Speaking for myself, I guess this leaves me as an old-school dad. I spend a lot of time at work and make about 95 percent of my family’s income. Despite that, I also cook, clean, and make time to be at hockey practices and dance recitals. Sometimes, I even get through a week without my head exploding.
The shift from man of the house to caregiver/co-bread-winner has a number of issues that dads are still working through. Fathers from older generations used to be more hands-off on average. The culture shift means that these new fathers aren’t asking their own dads for advice.
Instead of turning to their own parents, fathers tend to ask advice from their partners. Unfortunately, this means that moms often have to pull double duty, serving as both parents and mentors. Hopefully, the extra help they get in daily chores helps to balance things out.
Even as times change, I think there’s still a lot of male ego involved in fatherhood. Even if newer dads are taking a more hands-on approach, the role models are often guys who busted their butts outside the home to make ends meet. It’s hard to follow in your dad’s footsteps while also trying to be more hands-on with domestic chores.
I’m speaking from the perspective of somebody who has been in therapy because my work/life balance has occasionally gone out of whack. Getting it back in sync is a trial because it’s hard to find work to give up. A full-time career keeps a roof over our heads. Changing diapers, while not glamorous, isn’t something I want to miss. Like many dads, I want the full parenting experience.
So if you don’t have older father figures to turn to, who do you look to? In my case, I’m lucky enough to have a superwoman for a wife who has the patience to listen to my rants and help me stumble through my domestic chores. I’ve also got coworkers who are parents, so we share our thoughts, lessons, and worries.
If you’re not a dad who’s fortunate enough to have this sort of support system, don’t panic. There are other folks out there who can help. For example, you’ve got the weekly unassailable wisdom that I dispense right here!
Dads also turn to other dads for advice. Whether it’s chatting on the playground or in informal dad groups, fathers are sharing what they’ve learned. You’re much less likely to find goofy sitcom-style dads who don’t know anything about their kids and who are afraid to ask for advice.
All this leaves a lot of dads feeling overwhelmed with the parenting process – to which I’m sure most moms probably say, “Welcome to the club.” But while this generation’s dads might feel like they’re stumbling around in the dark, this societal change will probably help our kids out a lot. As times change, a struggling parent today is a potential pioneer tomorrow.
The lost feeling that many hands-on dads have now doesn’t have to be shared by their kids. If today’s dads spend some time on self-reflection and communicate well with their kids, they can dispense the advice they never received. Admittedly, it won’t all get listened to, but that’s the nature of the beast.
As dads get more involved in the parenting scene, everybody benefits. Moms get help, kids get more hands-on parenting, and the next generation of parents gets more advice and resources than ever. Parenting is an evolving art. The more people willing to jump in and participate, even at the risk of making mistakes, the better.