The Evolving Role of Dads

The role of dad in the family unit has evolved at a breakneck rate over the past 20 years. Empowerment of the mom has led to dads needing to step up their involvement in the family.  From the start of time, dads were the provider, but now they have to be ready to take on a shared role of care giver as well.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in a typical middle-class household.  My dad was a supervisor at a large manufacturing facility and he was the bread winner of the family.  My mom worked as school teacher.  She stayed with it because she was able to be home when my sister and I got home from school and she was off during the summers to look after us.  This was a pretty normal dynamic in our neighborhood.  For the most part, all of the dads were the provider and enforcer, while the moms were the care giver and home maker.

My dad’s role around the household was to take care of the house, the cars, the bills and teach me to be a man.  He shuttled me to football, soccer, and tennis practice and supported my sister and I during swim meets.  When I got in trouble, my mom was usually the first to find out, but my dad was usually the one to hand out the punishment.  He was my role model growing up and when I had my first child, that’s the role I played.  I made sure the bills were paid, there was a roof over our heads, the yard was kept clean and cut, and repairs to the house were made.  I would put in a 10-12 hour day at work, show up at home, expect a meal and then to relax.  I was filling the role of provider, so after a long day, I had earned the right to relax and be taken care of.

The difference is that times had changed.  My wife is a professional like myself.  She works a 40 hour work week.  She gets home from a day at work and has faced the same issues I have throughout the day.  She’s not staying at home and waiting to hand me the newspaper and my slippers.

For years, we went on following the outdated model that we grew up with.  However unfair it was, it seemed like the right thing to do.  Other people expected her to take care of the kids while I would un-wind from a work day.  I certainly didn’t know any different.  It took our second child, six years later, to start to change our home dynamic.

Adding a second child added more stress at home for my wife.  Not only was she still working 40 hours, but now she was responsible for two children.  With some “help” from her, I noticed where I could start be more helpful around the house.  Cooking some days and being more of a care giver to the kids.  However, it still took another three years before I realized that raising the family was now a “we” issue and not a “she” issue.

For it to be “us” working together, I needed to change my mind set on the role of dads.  I needed to realize that the role of dads had changed.  My wife and I were equal partners in raising the children.  While I bring home more money than she does, that does not buy me the right to not be a caregiver to our kids.  It doesn’t buy me the right to not help around the house and share household duties.

I realized I needed to pitch in and take the load off of my wife.  I began to cook every night and do my laundry and my son’s laundry.  Instead of baling on some family activities, I led them and let my wife stay behind and catch a break.

You may not realize it, but that’s the role of the 21st century dad.  Dads have to step up and become equal partners in raising and caring for the kids.  We can no longer be Ward Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver”.  Work hard, eat a good meal made by your wife and then impart life lessons on your kids.  We have to fully evolve into the child raising partner our family needs.

Please pass along your thoughts in the comments section.  I’m interested to see if other dads have seen this change or are noticing it in their lives.