Please don't believe the pop-culture pabulum about dads. We’re not all Homer Simpsons. We’re neither pipe-smoking, dinner-demanding Ozzies nor 21st century, do-it-all Mr. Moms. As with so many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
These days, dads have evolved to a much better place. Some of us are just as likely to chip in with the laundry and meals as we are to bring home the bacon or mow the lawn. Sure, there are deadbeats among us. But, mostly, modern dads are ripping apart old pop-culture tropes like these:
Mom is the sole nurturer
When a baby is born, the wrong-headed think, dads let moms do all the work. And, certainly, a mom and a newborn bonding in the first days and months of a kid’s life is undeniably beautiful — and necessary. Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and author, is a proponent of “attachment parenting,” which calls for a mom to hold the baby as closely as possible in the first several months of the baby’s life. Sears explains the importance of bonding on the Attachment Parenting International site:
“Bonding is really a continuation of the relationship that began during pregnancy … Birth cements this bond and gives it reality … Bonding allows you to transfer your life-giving love for the infant inside to caregiving love on the outside.”
But bonding is not the sole purview of moms. Dads can — and should — bond with their kids, too.
More from Sears:
“Fathers are sometimes considered secondhand nurturers, nurturing the mother as she nurtures the baby. That's only half the story. Fathers have their own unique way of relating to babies, and babies thrive on this difference … In fact, studies on father bonding show that fathers who are given the opportunity and are encouraged to take an active part in caring for their newborns can become just as nurturing as mothers.”
In their book “The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child's First Four Years,” authors Tara Haelle and Emily Willingham cite two studies, one in 2004 and one in 2013, that indicate dads generally aren’t on the couch snoring away while mom does all the feeding and calming of a newborn. In fact, both studies found men got less sleep than their care-giving counterparts.
An excerpt from the book, via NPR:
“[A] family with a newborn typically involves a parental partnership of some sort, and the role of the nonbirthing partner can be critical. And the sleep deprivation and fatigue of the nonbirthing partner go unrecognized by their birthing partner. A 2011 study of 21 new parent pairs suggests as much, and that this lack of recognition of sleep-deprivation problems goes both ways. Mothers overestimated how well fathers slept (the study looked only at mother–father parenting pairs), and fathers overestimated mothers' disturbed mood.”
Men are tricked into raising kids who aren't theirs
Men can have their hands full raising their own kids, of course. Raising someone else’s kids can add another measure of uncertainty to the process.
A recent study in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution says men being cuckolded into raising kids not their own is not as common as you might think. (And that's the study’s term, not ours.) From the study:
“Although popular scientific literature still often reports highly upward-biased … estimates ... recent work shows that the EPP [Extra-Pair Paternity] rate in contemporary populations is in the range of just one to two percent.”
Black dads are less involved
In 2010, 72 percent of African-American kids were born to unwed mothers, according to government statistics. But that doesn’t mean African-Americans dads are out of the picture.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at father involvement in a sampling of nearly 4,000 dads around the nation. The CDC asked men how much they participated in activities with their kids over the course of a month. It measured both dads who lived with the kids and dads who didn’t.
Almost 35 percent of black dads who lived with their kids said they read to them daily. Only 30 percent of white dads said they did.
Stay-at-home dads are all the rage
Before he was Beetlejuice, before he was Batman, before he was an investigative reporter in "Spotlight," Michael Keaton played a clueless stay-at-home dad in the 1983 comedy "Mr. Mom."
It's a believable premise (even if the movie today looks squeamishly sexist): A man, laid off from work, takes over the “household duties” as a kind-of surrogate mom.
It happens, of course, men staying home and being the main caregiver. But a 2009 National Review article citing these census numbers points out that more than 97 percent of stay-at-home parents in 2008 were women.