Fatherhood has changed and diversified over the decades, and now fathers are more likely to seek an active role in caring for their children. Fathers are taking more and more time off work for their children, and they are taking more parental leave when their children are born or adopted.
The number of men choosing to be stay-at-home parents is on the rise and men head 20% of single-parent families¹. Some of these trends started decades ago, some show the influence of new ways of thinking, and others are ancient traditions, stereotypes, and systems that still play a part in how fathers see themselves and how we think about fatherhood.
While the view of fathers as family breadwinners endures, the amount of time that fathers commit to home and family responsibilities has increased. As a result, dads are reporting increased levels of conflict between their work and family lives. This is nothing new to working mothers, but a recent survey found 85% of dads are reporting such conflicts, significantly more than what mothers are reporting².
This difference points to a work culture that offers less support and accommodation to fathers than to mothers, as well as stereotypes and stigma that make fathers more reluctant to make choices that put their family life ahead of their career. Still, most men value their family life more than their career, and a 2010 survey found that 49% of fathers would consider a job change if it offered more family-friendly options than their current employer³.
Views of fatherhood have grown from the simplistic model that was pervasive decades ago, to recognizing that there are a lot of different roles associated with fatherhood and a lot of variety between which roles are accepted, anticipated, or rejected by individual fathers.
Many dads are actively engaged with their children and they are seeking programs that recognize them as parents, whether they share in childcare responsibilities or act as the primary caregiver in their family. Although not all dads are engaged in the same way, there are clear benefits – for their children, the whole family, and for themselves – when we recognize their strengths, celebrate the roles they do play, and work with them to help their families succeed and thrive.
¹ Father’s Day by the Numbers 2014, Statscan http://www.statcan.gc.ca/dai-quo/smr08/2014/smr08_187_2014-eng.htm
² Alberta Father Involvement Initiative, 2014; Aumann, Galinsky & Matos, The New Male Mystique, 2008.
³ Harris/Decima. Working Dads Say Balancing it All is the Toughest Job (survey, conducted June 2010, http://www.workopolis.com/content/about/media/june-2010-working-dads
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