Good and Bad News about Dads

The news about dads isn’t always good around “their” day. This last one brought to mind the  piece Time did a couple of years ago about whether dads have done a good enough job to deserve the honor of being celebrated on Father’s Day.

This last Father’s Day I saw a piece by writer Jeff Gillenkirk  who says they do deserve the honor these days.  In his recent essay in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gillenkirk indicates that studies and census abstracts “show that more American Dads are spending more time doing more things with their kids than at any time in our post-agrarian society. The number of stay at home dads also rose nearly 60%…

..between 2003 and 2008 and is expected to keep rising as the economy and family roles continue to change.”  Stay at home dads are a growing phenom.  It was just starting to get some play around the time Families of Two came out. I spoke  at conferences that had stay at home dad authors speaking as well.  More articles have surfaced on this topic, and there are more blogs out there these days, e.g., BigDaddyPaul.

While a growing trend, it is still looked down upon, mostly by guys. In a word, it’s not seen as “manly.”  As it makes more financial sense for many couples, guys are ultimately going to have to be the ones to change their attitudes about this.  A stay at home dad couple profiled in the SF Chronicle spoke to words from a favorite law professor of theirs, and his view I couldn’t agree more with: “There will never be equality in the workforce unless family responsibilities are shared.”

More good news: Dads under 29 spend an average of about 4 hours per workday with their kids, almost double the amount of time in 1977.  Showing affection is up too as compared to the previous generation.

Some bad news: America is the leading country in fatherless families. 28% of white kids, 39% of Latino and almost 70% of African American kids are without their fathers at home. The good stats can reflect those who have chosen to have kids are parenting better than in previous generations. Yet on the other hand, there are still slews of Dads who aren’t up to the responsibility of parenthood, and so many kids suffer as a result.

Underneath this problem is the pronatalist thinking that if you are biologically capable to have a child, you should be able to have one.  So many people become parents when they aren’t ready or possibly don’t really want to be but have them anyway.

To get more dads who are ready to become dads and that will be good dads, it sure seems we need to get beyond seeing parenthood as a “right.” Just because you can does not mean you should.  Kids need to be taught and taught early that parenthood is not inevitable.  What if young people were required in school to look at their parent “aptitude” and look at what it takes to make the parenthood decision earlier in life?  There is a book that came out over 30 years ago called The Parent Test: How to Measure and Develop Your Talent for Parenthood that does this. Developed by a collection of experts, it addresses what is needed to become a successful parent, has  a “test” to see how you measure up, and ways to get ready in the areas you are weak in.

Young people need to be exposed to this kind material in school (along with other life skills). The definition of parenthood needs to shift from a biological act to a behavioral process, one in which it is not a given that we’re ready, willing or able.

What do you think could also help redefine parenthood away from being a biological right?

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