The New Fatherhood

Setting the bar higher for today's Dads


Overheard at a barbecue:

Dad # 1: "I changed 14 diapers today. I've got a diaper callus."

Dad #2: "Dude, that's nothing. I've got three kids under three – that's 20 diapers and three Pull-ups on a good day."

Dad#3: "Add one toddler with diarrhea and a teething six-month-old and welcome to my world."

Dad #4: "Are you guys joking? Please tell me you're joking. My wife's due with our first next month."

Dads 1,2 & 3, in unison: "Duuude!"

Dad 1: "Don't worry about it, my man. You'll be wiping butts with one hand and tackling toddlers with the other before you know it. Fathers are Ninjas."

At some point in the past 99 years we’ve been celebrating Fathers Day, diaper changing has become a competitive sport. It’s a basic Dad duty, along with potty training, nose wiping and tantrum taming. Diaper marathons are one of the ways guys gauge how involved they are as fathers.

There’s a new emphasis on fathers’ impact on children’s lives. Last Father’s Day Obama’s said, "We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — it’s the courage to raise one." Scientists, psychologists and academics are studying the effect of paternal presence or absence and the news is ominous. Kids without loving, active, involved fathers don’t do very well in society. Kids with fathers who interact with them regularly, help take physical and emotional care of them and share the big and small events in their lives make better grades, get better jobs, make more money and form strong families themselves.

Maybe it’s because we’re all so broke that childcare’s a luxury, or because so many of us work from home, but fathers are increasingly present in parenting. And yet, there’s still a ways to go before they’re even-Steven with Moms.

In comparison to our own fathers, Dads deserve bragging rights about how many chores they do and hours they spend with their kids. But, a recent time-use survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says they’re still way behind the womenfolk. Working mothers spend about twice as much time on housework and childcare as working fathers. Why? So many reasons, including: cultural expectations, greater emphasis on men’s careers, children’s preferences and women’s reluctance to let go and let Dad do things their way.

How about the less obvious parenting jobs like discipline, heart-to-heart talks and teaching values? Divvying up this kind of parental influence is more difficult to measure. We can count how many loads of laundry each parent does (men do 15%). Emotionally, however, it’s apples and oranges. Dads are different than Moms. Moms do more obvious nurturing like cuddling, but Dads do more playing and roughhouse. Mom may be logging more "housework billable hours" but Dad may be keeping the kids out of her hair by playing Legos. Hour-for-hour, which is more valuable? Neither. Kids need both to succeed in the world.

Obama said a father’s job is to set an example of excellence for children by setting high expectations for ourselves. "Don’t just sit in the house and watch Sports Center all weekend. That’s why children are growing up in front of the television. As fathers and parents, we’ve got to spend more time with them. That’s how we build that foundation." Who needs Sports Center when there’s a diaper marathon to compete in?

We’re experiencing a fatherhood revolution. Dad’s place is in the home, setting the bar higher. You’ll be the ones to hit that two dozen-diaper mark and do it again the next day. And as a wise father recently said, "Don’t worry about it, my man. Fathers are Ninjas."

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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