This generation of fathers does more than just change the diapers
According to Scott Coltrane, a professor at the University of Oregon, “Men are now doing significantly more — three times more than they did in the 70s.” This increased involvement of fathers is in contrast to “the 1950s concept of the father as a detached member of the family who provides economically but not emotionally for the children.”
Based on this 1950s stereotype, dads weren’t expected to do much with children. The woman was the “homemaker” and she was responsible for everything from the children’s birth until they left the home at 18. Dads would swoop in from time to time to play baseball with Johnny in the backyard, but then went back to the office to be the “breadwinner.”
Over the past few decades this image of fathers has changed drastically, with men expected to share the responsibility of active parenting. Men can now be seen changing diapers, taking kids to play-dates, or braiding their daughters’ hair to name a few examples.
Beginning in the 1970s, we have seen Husband-Coached Childbirth, where the husband helps his wife throughout her pregnancy and plays a vital role in the birth of their child. The closest a 1950s dad would get to the delivery room was the lobby, where he celebrated the birth of a child by smoking a cigar.
The reason why this is so important is because children receive their image of God directly from the relationship with their father. David Dollahite, a professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University, explains, “A father has a powerful influence in deep and subtle ways. Even though children know intellectually that God is fair, loving and kind and patient, it’s hard for them to relate to God at a gut level in a deep way if their own father is not that way.”
If the father is absent, the child, no matter how much religious instruction they receive from their mother, will view God as absent, cold and distant. If the father is a lawgiver, constantly giving out punishments, children will think of God as an arbitrary dictator.
That is why, Dollahite argues, “Fathers need to make sure that they are not spending all their time talking about rules. Dad also needs to be kind, loving, patient and humble to help the kids connect with him as a person, not just an authority figure.”
What’s interesting is that this rise in involved millennial dads is more “vintage” than a new trend. Coltrane explains how, “if you go back to the 1800s [moral guidance was a] really important role of the father or if you go back to the 1700s, the father was the main religious instructor, the main moral educator…We’re actually seeing men provide more of the moral and ethical guidelines than they did in the 50s, and it’s probably going back to that 1890s style.”
This is because before the Industrial Revolution changed the world, most men were farmers and were always around their children. Recently, men have been coming full-circle with the ability to work at home via the Internet and are now no longer held captive at the office.
However, while millennial dads are becoming more involved at home, they aren’t perfect. According to a national survey, 33% of children (24.7 million) live without their biological father. There is certainly much room for growth, but overall dads in recent decades are starting to understand their vital role in the parenting of their children.
In the end, the Church and society are finally beginning to recognize the importance of an active father. This means a dad who is not only able to change dirty diapers, but most importantly, a dad who is a living example of a loving and compassionate God.
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