The Modern Dad

Women are breaking down old gender stereotypes, but so are fathers, and the effects equally influential


Gone are the days of firmly divided roles in parenting. Fathers today spend about an hour more per workday with their children than dads of decades past, and that includes everything from homework to diapers to story time.

As the modern father emerges, he is met with a variety of challenges, the most common being work-family conflict. In 1977, only a third of fathers reported a work-life conflict, but by 2008 that number was at 60 percent. Surveys suggest that three out of every four fathers want to spend more time with their children, and that the majority of fathers believe caregiving should be divided 50/50 with the spouse. A large survey from Boston College even found that half of dads would seriously consider the possibility of being a full-time, at-home dad.

“Men today view the ‘ideal’ man as someone who is not only successful as a financial provider, but is also involved as a father, husband/partner and son,” write authors of The New Male Mystique, part of the National Study of the Changing Workforce by the Families and Work Institute. “Yet flat earnings, long hours, increasing job demands, blurred boundaries between work and home life, and declining job security all contribute to the pressures men face to succeed at work and at home and thus to work-family conflict.”

The same survey from Boston College found that only about a third of fathers say they actually share caregiving equally with their spouse, often due to work conflict. But still, housework and childcare is more and more a father’s chore. The average father in 1965 spent about four hours on housework and two and a half hours on childcare. The average father in 2011 spent ten hours a week doing housework, and seven hours a week on childcare, according to the Pew Research Center. And the trends can be seen even in the last decade.


Help with homework: 58%

Read to kids: 56%

Bathe and diaper: 82%


Help with homework: 62%

Read to kids: 65%

Bathe and diaper: 95%

Source: National Survey of Family Growth,


This increase in time spent doing family-related things reflects the fact that fewer dads in today’s world are the sole breadwinner in the family. As of 2012, 60 percent of households had a dual income, and in just 31 percent of homes the father was the only one employed, according to Pew.

But it isn’t just that both spouses are working. Parents today simply spend more time their children than previous generations, surveys suggest. A 2012 survey from Pew found that 46 percent of fathers and 52 percent of mothers reported spending more time with their kids than their parents spent with them.

Percent of parents today who report they spend more time with their kids than their parents spent with them:

Mothers: 52%

Fathers: 46%

Source: Pew Research Center

Workplace Flexibility

With the modernization of parenting roles comes the debate of how accommodating a workplace should be. Studies suggest that men earn more money for every child they have (the opposite is true for women in low-earning jobs), so they have that going for them. But how much do employers sacrifice by giving their male workers paid leave and flexibility for family?

Researchers at Northwestern University found that working fathers who got to see their children daily were less likely to leave for another company, and were more satisfied with their jobs.

“Instead of promoting ideals based on outdated gender norms, firms need to recognize fatherhood as a serious and time-consuming activity, both through formal flex programs and through encouraging supervisors to support fathers in fulfilling family commitments,” said Jamie Ladge, a management professor at Northeastern University who co-authored the study. “This is especially so in view of the enhanced job satisfaction and company loyalty that our study suggests is fostered by involved fathering.”

A 2014 press release from the White House spoke of “hidden costs” of limited workplace flexibility for changing gender roles, citing research that better flexibility improves productivity, draws talent, lowers turnover and replacement costs and reduces absenteeism. In other words, parent-friendly companies do better.

Being a Father Makes You a Better Employee

64 % of fathers said involvement with their family gave them knowledge and skills that made them better employees.

61 % said because of their family life, they used time more efficiently, which made them better employees.

82 % said that family life made them happier, which made them better employees.

Sources: Boston College Center for Work and Family,

Paternity leave is one hot topic in this debate. Somewhere along the lines of 70 countries offer paid leave in some way or another for fathers of a newborn child. The United States isn’t one of them, though some individual companies do.

The documented benefits of paid paternity leave are mostly felt by the mother, according to multiple studies conducted in Scandinavian countries where paid paternity leave exists. Mothers are less likely to feel depressed and have better wellbeing when their spouse has paid paternity leave.

Research from Boston University found that most fathers in America only take about one day of leave to bond with their new children, which could negatively influence the mother, and the father-child bond in the future, they suggest.

Another important aspect of workplace flexibility is the rising number of single dads. In 1970, 1 percent of families were led by a single dad, and by 2013, that number reached 8 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

Clearly, fatherhood isn’t what it once was, which may actually be a good thing in a number of ways, like that dads want to share the load in parenting. Employers should recognize this shift and find ways to adapt to the family-oriented man, as research suggests this will benefit everyone.

Source: Third Way, The New Dad: Take Your Leave, Boston College Center for Work and Family, Fortune, Pew Research Center, Forbes,

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