Hey, busy involved dad, are you feeling burned out? You are not alone- most dads are struggling to juggle work and family. But that’s a sign of progress. And in many ways this is the best of times to be a father. Guest author Jeremy Adam Smith explains five reasons why.
Jeremy Adam Smith writes on a variety of topics related to positive psychology and fatherhood and is the author of several books, including The Daddy Shift. You should really check out his work. In June, he wrote a great article “Five Reasons Why It’s a Good Time to be a Dad” which appeared at the Greater Good Science Center website. He was nice enough to allow me to excerpt it here at FWF. (Here’s a link to the full-length article.)
Five Reasons Why It’s a Good Time to be a Dad
1. There are more ways to be a good dad than ever before.
My grandfather’s generation showed their love by going to work every day and providing for their families—and woe to the man who dared change a diaper, for he’d be told he was doing woman’s work…. So while making ends meet is stressful for just about everyone these days—dads and moms, families and singles—dads need not suffer the added indignity of feeling disparaged or marginalized for taking on their new roles.
In fact, according to San Diego-based daddy blogger Andy Hinds, the opposite may be true—these new roles can be a source of pride and admiration. “We’re in the sweet spot as far as expectations,” he says. “It’s mostly acceptable for a man to be an involved parent (i.e., it doesn’t seem problematic to most people when a dad is out with kids unsupervised by a woman), and yet it’s still enough of a novelty that we get more attention and props than we deserve for being an apparently competent parent.”
2. Men get more time with children through paternity leave and shared custody.
“My husband just took advantage of California’s paid family leave and it was great,” says new Santa Rosa, CA, mom Leilani Clark. “He took six weeks off work and had tons of time to bond with our newborn.” Leilani’s husband is a lucky guy… I think men have a lot of work to do in winning public policies that will help them to be the fathers they want to be.
But as we advocate for policies like paid paternity leave, flextime, and sick days, we take heart from the fact that our fathers and grandfathers had no leave whatsoever, paid or unpaid—and they were deliberately kept out of maternity wards. They were breadwinners, period, and policies were designed to reinforce that limited role.
… This expanding time with children holds even if the marriage ends. Where once it was presumed by family courts that the mother should have primary custody after divorce, more and more states have enacted legislation presuming joint custody, and the number of fathers with primary custody has slowly but steadily increased over the past 30 years.
3. Men have the opportunity to develop new emotional skills.
We’re not just learning to change diapers. We’re also learning to practice kindness, compassion, and forgiveness—for ourselves and for wives. That’s good, and good for our kids…. “Compared to the dads of my father’s generation, this generation is allowed to show much more affection and be much more involved in their children’s lives,” said Craig Wiesner, co-founder of Reach And Teach, a peace and social justice learning company.
… The couples I interviewed said that sharing care and work demanded a high degree of emotional intelligence—a sharp departure from the hierarchical marriages of the past. They talked about learning to respect the different ways that men and women take care of kids; recognizing and appreciating each other’s contributions; constantly communicating, negotiating, and forgiving; and being open to change.
These developments can only be good for men—and for their families.
4. We’re more networked and we’re looking to each other for community.
… We’re a comparatively talkative generation, and we’ve started a conversation about fatherhood that is unfolding in churches and barbershops, across popular blogs and rarified academic journals, and over Saturday afternoon BBQs and Thanksgiving dinners.
Lance Somerfeld co-founded New York City Dads. “Dads across the nation are finding ways to connect with other dads, both online and face-to-face,” he says. “This newfound camaraderie, sharing of resources and best practices, and expression of what we are going through both successfully and with challenges, enables dads to link up and see that they are so fortunate to be involved in their children’s lives.” As fathers organize themselves into groups and networks, they’re pushing the language around work-life fit to include them.
5. We can tell our children a new story about fatherhood.
… It was once the case that we told a specific story to our children about what their lives would become: We raised our girls to be homemakers and our boys to become breadwinners. Those allegedly good old days are now gone, and they are never coming back.
While many have construed this change as some kind of assault on marriage and fatherhood, I would argue that it is precisely the opposite. This “crisis” is, in fact, an opportunity for revival and renewal—to tell a new story to our children that will help them thrive in the 21st century.
Thank you, Jeremy! I encourage all of you to read his full-length article and follow his work.
What do you think about the challenges and opportunities fopr today’s dad? Any experiences to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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Jeremy Adam Smith is Web Editor of the Greater Good Science Center and a 2013 fellow with the Institute for Justice and Journalism. He is also the author or coeditor of four books, including The Daddy Shift, Rad Dad, and The Compassionate Instinct. Before joining the GGSC, Jeremy was a 2010-11 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. You can follow him on Twitter!