Celebrating the Modern Dad: Transitions and Wellbeing for Today’s Family
The presence of a loving father greatly increases a child’s chances of success, confidence, resilience, physical and mental well-being.
Family Dynamics of the Past
Not too long ago, society deemed dads incapable of caring for their children. At least that’s what the television ads would portray. Picture this: a bumbling dad burning dinner and twisting the baby’s diaper in a knot, only to be saved by dear old mom. At the time, fathers were simply the breadwinners, and had no business in the kitchen or caring for the children.
But that was then.
The historically significant shifts in technology, alongside the evolution of gender roles, over the past 70 years, both at home and in the workplace, have changed that. Now, dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is important to their identity. According to Pew Research, it is now less common for dads to be the sole breadwinner of the family. In 1970, 47 percent of families were supported by the working dad alone. Today, that number has dropped to 27 percent. Most two-parent families with kids have both parents working in some capacity. Along the way, society has done away with stereotypes about what fathers do.
If there is a strong evidence to prove the importance that fathers be around and be involved, then they now have a stronger argument to be home.”
– Paul Raeburn.
The Modern Dad: Fathers as Caregivers
The modern-day father comes in various forms. Today’s father is no longer always the traditional married breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family. He can be single or married; externally employed or stay-at-home; gay or straight; an adoptive or step-parent; and a more than capable caregiver. More fathers are actually making the conscious choice to stay home to raise their children. According to Pew Center, in 2016, 24% of stay-at-home dads reported that this was the main reason they were at home, up from just 4% in 1989.
As more and more dad’s take on the caregiver role, new studies are being conducted on the science of fatherhood that investigates the role of fathers in their children’s and families’ lives. According to author, Paul Raeburn, “Fathers who play with their kids have children who have fewer behavioral problems in their school years, adjust better to their transition to school from toddlerhood, and have less likelihood to be involved in delinquency or criminal behaviors as teenagers and even more as adults. This has a lifelong effect on children and it’s really only in the last few years that this has begun to be recognized.”
The NEW American Family and the Need for Comparable Paid Family Leave Laws, Disability Insurance
As dad’s role in the family dynamic becomes more equalized with that of what the stay at home mom’s role used to be, the need for paid leave programs for all workers has come into the public and political conversation. Today, only a few states have laws requiring paid leave for various circumstances. And while many companies have their own, more generous policies, the benefit is not as widespread as you might imagine: The National Partnership for Women and Families, a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group, estimates that only 17 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers.
To help working mothers, paid parental leave – for moms and dads — may be the next frontier. Employers and governments are now talking a lot more about giving fathers a break so they can be the dads they want to be – and so the daily work-parenting load will be more equally distributed. In fact, the Trump administration has reportedly drafted a budget that would require states to offer six weeks of paid parental leave. So far, there are no signs of any progress on the plan, mostly because there are no specifics about how to implement it yet, but the fact that such a priority is even on the budget at a time of massive spending cuts is good news.
Whether or not your state or company offers ample paid leave, disability insurance (or, as we like to call it, “income insurance”) is another benefit more employers are considering as additions to their benefits packages, and one more families should consider during their company’s open enrollment. Although fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through short-term disability insurance that is provided by their employer, most workplaces offer you the option of purchasing more. It’s a decision that can save a family’s finances should the unexpected happen.
Proactive Steps Dad Can Take for Longterm Health and Wellbeing
Outside of benefits and income protection, and as primary caregivers, it is important for men, like their female counterparts, to take a proactive approach to healthcare, something most men historically do not do. According to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, men are notoriously bad patients. Compared with women, they avoid going to the doctor, skip more recommended screenings and practice riskier behavior. They also die about five years sooner, live with more years of bad health and have higher suicide rates. Now, with the growing recognition that treating preventable causes of death and disability could close the medical gender gap, the health-care industry is mounting a new push to get men the care they need.
The first step is prevention. As we know heart disease the number one cause of illness and death for the American man. Families can help the dads in their lives think about their own health and lifestyle choices and ensure they are taking the right steps to look after themselves. The Centers for Disease Control, offers families a simple guide to help the men in their life get and stay on track with their health. Here are some tips:
Gather for the Family Meal.
While you are at it, have dad eat his fruits and vegetables every day.
- Get active!
This Father’s Day, find fun ways to exercise together. Regular physical activity has many benefits. It can help dad control his weight, reduce his risk of heart disease and some cancers, and can improve overall mental health and mood.
- Don’t Forget to Breathe.
Help the men in your life recognize and reduce stress.
- Schedule the Check Up.
Men can prepare for doctor’s visits. Certain diseases and conditions may not have symptoms, so checkups help identify issues early or before they can become a problem.
- Know the Signs of a Heart Attack:
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
- Shortness of breath
- Know the Signs of Depression: They include persistent sadness, grumpiness, feelings of hopelessness, tiredness and decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide.
A father’s influence has changed over the years. For example, today there are more stay-at-home dads by choice and those that are able to take paid leave for a new baby. This has created a cultural shift placing a father at the core of caregiving. As a result, it is having long term positive effects. As the number of dads who are in the caregiver role increases, it is ever more important they take advantage of employer paid leave benefits, and at the same time, take proactive steps to maintain optimal health… not just for their own good, but the good of their families (and society in general).
Happy Father’s Day!