October 9, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
This Pew Research survey offers a pretty accurate image of a somewhat limited range of factors about fathers and attitudes toward fatherhood. All in all it is, as we’ve come to expect, a picture of fathers struggling to find their way to a satisfactory fatherhood amid the competing and contradictory demands of economics, the workplace, traditional sex roles and changing ones. For dads, it’s not easy.
Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity. Some 57% of fathers say this, compared with 58% of mothers. Most dads seem to appreciate the benefits of parenthood – 54% report that parenting is rewarding all of the time, as do 52% of moms. Meanwhile, 46% of fathers and 41% of mothers say they find parenting enjoyable all of the time.
That’s one of the most important and most overlooked facts about fathers, particularly in the process of divorce. The loss of children, in whatever way it occurs, constitutes one of the most devastating blows a father can experience. It’s the reason fathers who are sidelined by courts tend, more than any other segment of society to take, or attempt to take, their lives. Fathers, like mothers, bond to their children biochemically. Fatherhood literally changes who a man is. Once that happens, we take that new identity from him at our – and his – peril.
In 2015, fathers reported spending, on average, seven hours a week on child care – almost triple the time they provided back in 1965. And fathers put in about nine hours a week on household chores in 2015, up from four hours in 1965. By comparison, mothers spent an average of about 15 hours a week on child care and 18 hours a week on housework in 2015.
This isn’t new. For a long time now, fathers have been spending more time doing hands-on childcare than did fathers just a couple of generations ago. That’s despite the fact that they’re also spending more time at paid work. The difference between men and women’s time spent on childcare and domestic chores is, once again, the difference between men’s and women’s time at paid work. When paid work and domestic work are added together, men and women spend statistically identical amounts of time, with men earning more and women opting more for childcare.
While fathers are spending more time with their children, many feel they’re still not doing enough. Roughly half (48%) say they spend too little time with their kids. Only 25% of mothers say the same. Dads are also less positive about their own parenting than are moms. Just 39% of fathers say that they are doing a “very good job” raising their children, compared with 51% of mothers.
This is where we start to see the pinch fathers are experiencing. From all sides dads are told they’re deficient at fathering, not doing enough, incompetent when they try and all but worthless according to family court judges. All that, combined with their natural inclination to care for their children, means that, however much they do, however much energy they expend, they feel they’re not doing enough. Mothers, being almost universally lauded for their parenting, are far less likely to feel the same.
About a quarter of couples (27%) who live with children younger than 18 are in families where only the father works. This marks a dramatic change from 1970, when almost half of these couples (47%) were in families where only the dad worked. The share of couples living in dual-earner families has risen significantly, and now comprises the majority of two-parent families with children.
This is more a result of necessity than choice. Given the opportunity, mothers routinely say they’d spend more time with the kids and less time at work. Fathers tend to say the opposite. But the financial realities of contemporary life mean few couples can afford for Mom to stay at home full-time. Pew data bear that out:
The public has mixed views about these changes. While only a small share (18%) of adults say women should return to their traditional roles in society, breadwinning is still more often seen as a father’s role than a mother’s. About four-in-ten (41%) say it is extremely important for a father to provide income for his children; just 25% say the same of mothers. And while about three-quarters of the public says having more women in the workplace has made it harder for parents to raise children, a majority (67%) says this has made it easier for families to live comfortably.
Meanwhile, those surveyed by Pew demonstrate a much better understanding of children’s needs than do, for example, family courts and many of the mental health professionals who advise them.
About one-fourth (27%) say it’s more important for new babies to bond with their moms, and 2% say it’s more important for new babies to bond with their fathers. Women are slightly more likely to say that it’s important for new babies to bond with both parents (74% vs. 68% of men).
Overall, 71% say it’s important for babies to bond with both parents. That of course is true. Children begin the bonding process within the first weeks of life and can tell the difference between Dad and Mom as early as eight weeks. Humans are a bi-parental species and our socialization requires input from parents of both sexes. Not only parents, but courts would be well-advised to take note.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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