by Comprehensive Staff

08/09/2016 9:08 pm

What Does It Mean to be a Good Dad?

family at sunset 

What does it mean to be a good dad?

Once it might have meant providing for and protecting your family. For a new generation of American fathers, however, the definition of what it means to be a good dad increasingly also includes washing the dishes, making dinner or taking the kids to school.

A Today survey of 2,000 moms and dads shows that fathers are more involved than ever before with their children, emotionally and practically. While moms increasingly share the responsibility for the family’s income, dads are assisting with more of the childcare and household chores.
     - 75 percent of fathers say being a dad is their most important job 
     - 61 percent of dads say they are more involved with their children than their father was
       with them.

Recent research supports the idea that dads are more "hands on." according to the Pew Research Center. The amount of time fathers spend on childcare and housework has increased significantly over the last half century, from 6.5 hours a week in 1965 to 17 hours a week in 2011.

Economic reasons, especially in the aftermath of the Great Recession, might be partly responsible for the shift.
     - 59.1 percent of married couples with children at home both work
     - 40 percent of mothers are now primary breadwinners
     - dads staying home has nearly doubled compared to a quarter century ago
     - number of families led by a single mother tripled, from 7 percent in 1960 to 25 percent in 2011

While some may struggle with the changing definitions of marriage and family, Tom Burns, author of Modern Dads, sees it as a sign the world is becoming more inclusive: “I see just as many men who are seeing so many doors opened and they are thriving.”  Men are biologically hard-wired to be nurturing, although they may show it in a different way than women do, according to William Pollack of Harvard Medical School.

“Positive and caring fathering is important,” Pollack said. “It is equally as important as going out and earning a living.”

While some may feel threatened by a shift in gender roles, Burns said it doesn’t mean that what used to be masculine is no longer masculine. “All it means is the definition is expanding to include things that it didn’t used to."

Those things could include taking paternity leave, attending a child's school play or reading to your 7-year-old daughter. 

The definition of what does it mean to be a good dad is constantly changing as the roles of fathers in their families change.