So is it harder to be a father today or was it a tougher job 30 years ago? For one its said fathers spend three times more time with their children as their own fathers did with them. Men are far more involved in their child’s upbringing. While at one time your Dad may not have been sure which class you studied in unless it was report card viewing time (everything else was handled by Ma whether she worked or not), now Dads have as much to do with homework and PTA meetings and projects and getting kids to all their classes. Most older generation progenitors were modelled as disciplinarians. It was common to hear mothers saying, ‘Wait till Daddy comes home. Then you’ll really get it!” But that unidimensional role of the head of the house and someone authoritarian to fear has given way to new generations who want to be there for the rest of it as well, even sometimes leaving the discipline out of it altogether, to replace it with keen listening and encouragement and conversations that matter. This also means far more time given to parenting that was asked of fathers before... Woman’s housekeeping guides from the 1960s, told women to keep children out of the way when the man came home from work so as not to disturb them. We cannot imagine modern fathers wanting their children ‘seen but not heard’. They want real relationships with their offspring and are willing to do the messy stuff like change nappies, clean up food accidents and sit up all night with their sick children.
Young fathers today work hard to juggle their work-life balance, to put aside work when they get home, to roll around on the floor giggling with their children, cook their meals, help with craft projects, read to them or sing with them. They want to hug and be hugged; they hurt for their children’s pain; they root for their happiness and success and they arent afraid to cry.
So yes, fathering is one tough job, probably far more complex and exhausting today than in the past, but so much more soul-satisfying. So while they might never ask for it, Dads do need a break and some deep appreciation for just being there, available, wise and handy and quite often calmer than Ma (shhh!).
So this Father’s Day, apart from the mug with ‘World’s Best Dad’, maybe find something to give them that not just shows you love them for being your father, but that you’re so grateful they’re a 21st Century Dad! Mothers get pampering and facials and gift cards to spas. Maybe Dad can be introduced to the joys of mani-pedis and deep tissue massages too. He will return a changed man!