THE MODERN AMERICAN DAD
BY Mary Anne Trevey
Fatherhood is changing in America. Today many fathers are taking a much more active role in the nurturing, caring for, and helping with the raising of children. This comes with its own struggles as fathers, who in previous generations were primarily breadwinners and weekend participators, now are taking on some of the primary responsibilities of providing a stable and loving environment for children of all ages. In general, Dads are less positive about their parenting abilities than are moms. For women, the mothering process begins with conception and by the time they give birth they have already spent 270 days with their new child, not including the months of preparation and attention to diet and health that may proceed a pregnancy. For fathers, birth day is day one. Because they lack the biological connection that mothers have, the new father may be intimidated and uncomfortable with his new role. But, this is changing more rapidly than expected as more and more fathers are staying at home with the children while the mother works, a social change that has occurred in the past 20 years.
The 21st century dad has to learn to be a father. Roles that traditionally belonged to women are unfamiliar to most men. But, the modern dad has actually adapted quite well. It is not uncommon to see a man pushing a stroller, sporting a baby sling, in-line for day-care pickup , or even getting up to provide baby’s 3 a.m. feeding. Most stay-at-home fathers find a lot of satisfaction in their new-found role, but there are those who feel they are not doing enough to help support the family. Still, dads are just as likely as moms to see parenting as central to their identity.
Many businesses still feel it is more important for the man to be the breadwinner. On average, a man is given only one week of maternity leave while a woman gets eleven weeks. The perception is that a new mother is more important than a new father in the weeks immediately following birth. But, with so many women now in the workplace, some sort of compromise needs to be worked out. Sharing the child-rearing responsibilities, especially after maternity leave terminates, has given women a chance to keep their jobs and to still have time for the children. Studies have shown that it is equally important for the young child to bond with both of his or her parents. Though each gender may have different approaches to child-rearing, children seem to benefit from the input that both sexes bring. Though the perception lingers that mothers are better equipped than fathers to raise young children, the rearing of young humans has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, more than likely a benefit to children and parents as well.