Heart to heart with Dads
In my Mother’s Day post last month, the intent was to broaden the characterization of “mother” to offer a more universal perspective. Well, it’s only fair to explore Father’s Day and see whether the traditional definition of this holiday fits today’s 21st century dad. My sense is that it doesn’t in some ways.
A number of factors are forcing modern parents to redefine gender roles and determine their own definitions of mother and father. Specifically, a growing population of women in the workforce, an unsteady economy and stale cultural stereotypes contribute to new perspectives and choices to achieve a more balanced and fulfilling family dynamic. While historically dads have understood the need to be a good provider, Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible fatherhood claims that “Today’s dad understands it’s not enough. You must provide, but also nurture and guide. That heart-to-heart connection is critical.”
It’s that heart-to-heart connection that seems to be why more fathers than ever are participating in their children’s nurturing and upbringing. A fair bellwether for that statement is the ever-increasing population of stay-at-home dads. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 105,000 fathers stayed home to care for their families in 2002. Six years later, that figure jumped 33 percent to 140,000 not counting the fathers who work from home either full time or part time, nor does it include the recent trend of more men than women being laid off during the recession, a likely contributor to the stay-at-home dad population.
When I was a teacher back in the late 1980’s, there wasn’t a dad in sight who was seen dropping off children in the morning or picking them up after school. On today’s campuses, I love the abundance of fathers and applaud them for being involved in their children’s after-school programs, leading a scouting troop, or forming dad’s groups.
Does today’s modern-day dad take away from the more traditional nature of our grandfathers and their sons? Not really. While the roles of fatherhood may have evolved with each generation, I think the art of creating heart-to-heart connections between dads and their children is not just a product of today’s 21st century pops. For more than 100 years, fathers have been honored for sharing their wisdom, guidance and support on this annual June holiday. What may have changed is how those values are expressed and by whom that nowadays includes step-dads, uncles, brothers, and men who assume a father-figure role. To one and all, Happy Father’s Day wishes to you.