I am lucky enough to have my maternal and paternal grandfathers still alive and live only minutes from my family’s home, so we see them often. They’ve seen how at family birthday parties, dinners out and holidays, my husband does just as much as I do when it comes to caring for our children. He’s never handed me a child with a dirty diaper to be changed. He’ll rock them to sleep, address an “owie” and is generally just as knowledgeable and in tune to their needs as I am. My maternal grandfather has not been shy about the noticeable difference in the role of today’s father versus the 1960s when his children were young. He has even expressed regret about how much he worked and how little he engaged with his kids, ultimately shrugging it off citing, “Those were the times.”
What has changed? I am a stay at home mom, just as my grandmother was. My husband is the primary breadwinner, just as my grandfather was. Despite these facts, my husband is happy to take his share of child related duties when he isn’t working, while most dads in the 1960s did not.
An article written by Ditta Oliker, Ph.D. for Psychology Today indicated that prior to the 1970s, psychological studies geared toward child development didn’t even interview fathers. The “parents” referred to in these studies were the mothers or mother-substitute. Not until after the 1970s and most likely the women’s movement, did men start to play a more active parenting role. The article goes on to say “…it is generally accepted, under most circumstances, that a father’s presence and involvement can be as crucial to a child’s healthy development as a mother’s…”
We now live in the age of social media. Sharing a touching, well researched article about the scientifically proven ways a father benefits his children is done with the click of a button.
A 2006 “user manual” from childwelfare.gov titled The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Childrenstates, “Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness. They are more patient and can handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers.” There are now entire government issued manuals on the importance of fathers in the home.
In the 1960s, this information just wasn’t out there. Dads were regularly excluded from delivery rooms. Men were told their value to the home was in paying the bills. They were led to believe by popular culture and the example provided to them that children needed their mothers for parenting and their fathers for providing, so that is what they did.
Humans tend to rise and fall to the expectations set for them. I don’t fault my grandfather or any fathers of generations past for focusing on work rather than their children. If it was generally accepted that a mother’s presence in the home was trivial and unnecessary, my husband and I might have made different choices with regard to the care of our children. Alas, I am grateful that we had a choice at all and am excited for what the future holds for our kids.