Like most couples, my husband and I enjoy an innocent banter back and forth. He teases me about being a bit of a control freak (I mean, if you’re going to put cereal bowls backwards in the dishwasher, you’re a monster. I’m sorry, not sorry). And I tease him about leaving his shoes all over the house and never ever ever ever in 20 years hanging up a single shirt. It’s all in good fun because you get to a point in a relationship where you need to accept the other person isn’t going to change, so you might as well have a laugh about it.
However, there’s one thing he doesn’t find funny, and that’s when society pokes fun at the incompetency of dads.
Growing up in a household with two working parents and seven kids, his dad often cooked dinner, helped with homework, and did bath time. As a result, being a hands-on father came naturally to my husband. In fact, when our first child was born, he was a full-time student while I worked and supported us financially, making him our son’s primary caregiver for the first few months of his life. So yeah, he dealt with more spit-ups and blow-out diapers than I did for a while.
And now, with three kids ages 9, 7, and 5, we divide and conquer on a daily basis. On any given night, he walks in from work and sees that dinner’s not ready yet, that someone needs help with homework, or that another one needs to rush off to practice. We divvy up the jobs and get it all done as a team. He might take over in the kitchen while I start one of the kids in the bath. Or, if our little guy is squirrelly and needs to burn off energy, they’ll head outside to play baseball while I get the big kids going on homework. From the first day of our parenting journey, he’s never shied away from any task—be it diapers, feeding, running errands, cooking, or helping around the house.
So when he sees a meme or a tweet or hears a comment that mocks dads as incapable buffoons who only “babysit” on occasion, it irks him. Understandably.
Because, despite it being 2018, society still tends to hold on to the archaic belief that dads are lazy, uninvolved, or simply cannot handle caring for their kids. Maybe that’s still true for some families, but young dads of today are proving that notion wrong more and more—my husband included.
In fact, a study performed by the Pew Research Center finds that today’s dads are far more involved when compared to their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. “In 2016, fathers reported spending, on average, eight hours a week on child care – about triple the time they provided back in 1965,” the study reports. “And fathers put in about 10 hours a week on household chores in 2016, up from four hours in 1965.”
And while the numbers aren’t exactly equal yet—most studies are still finding moms do more—the scales are getting closer and closer to being balanced with each passing year.
Also, today’s fathers see their role as Dad to be a bigger part of their identity than fathers of years ago. Our grandfathers may have identified as “accountants” or “factory workers” or “salesman” first, and dads as secondary, but today’s fathers don’t.
“Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity,” the Pew Research Center article states. To be exact, 57% of fathers said so in a 2015 survey, as compared to 58% of mothers.
Personally, I cannot imagine claiming an identity before “Mom.” I am also a writer and was a teacher years ago, but since my first child came into the world, it’s been “Mom” first for me. And today, more and more dads are doing the same.
Also, the pressure isn’t always on the dad anymore to be the primary breadwinner. According to the Pew Research Center, “About a quarter of couples (27%) who live with children younger than 18 are in families where only the father works. This marks a dramatic change from 1970, when almost half of these couples (47%) were in families where only the dad worked.” Dual-income households are the norm now, so when Mom and Dad walk in the door after a long day at work, they need to tag-team until bedtime to get the rest of the day’s work done.
Even more modern, however, is the growing trend for Dad to stay home while Mom goes off to work. SAHDs even have their own acronym now. They’ve started networking through social media and Meetup groups to schedule play dates and forge friendships, just as moms have been doing forever.
Because guess what? Dads are 100% capable of raising babies, just as much as moms. And thankfully society is finally catching up. Restaurants and businesses are adding changing tables in men’s restrooms—yes, dads CAN (and should) change diapers! And paternity leave options are becoming more and more common at men’s places of employment.
Do we still have work to do? Yep. Ask any man in a competitive field, and he’ll probably tell you that yes, his employer offers paternity leave, but there’s a price to pay for taking it, so he may not risk it. And are dads often praised for “babysitting” when they take their kids to the park or grocery store? Unfortunately, yes. Still, too often, both men and women view fathers as less capable of doing basic parenting tasks. This causes either judgment of the dad, or, on the other side, raining down praise if he does even the simplest of things that mothers do every day with their eyes closed.
So hang in there, millennial dads. We see you with your man-buns and Converse sneakers pushing your toddlers on the swings and wearing your babies in front carriers at Whole Foods. And we thank you for stepping up and being the dads we moms need and, more importantly, the dads your kids need.
Thank you for raising babies who grow up seeing both their moms and dads wash dishes, cook meals, and change diapers. Thank you for validating the important things that moms at home have done for centuries—by doing them as well. Personally, I don’t care if you sport a man-bun or have a shaved head, or if you rock a bacon double cheeseburger or avocado toast when you take your kids out to lunch. Just being a good dad is enough.
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