Welcome the New Mom: Dad.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


In the run-up to Father’s Day, American media gushed about fatherhood like never before:


* USA Today screamed “Dad’s Pregnancy Hormones” describing the changes (somewhat minor compared to moms’) that dads experience as fatherhood approaches. The subhead carried a National Inquirer-type claim: Changes Could Be Nature’s Way of Ensuring Baby Survives!


* “Paternal Bonds, Special and Strange” was a New York Times Science front page full color exploration of how male animals and humans alike love babies: “No display carries higher status, or is more likely to impress the other guys, than to strut around the neighborhood with an infant monkey in tow.” Okay, the article is referring to macaques from North Africa’s Barbary coast, but I think we’ve all seen a dad or two in our own hood doing that strut.


* On the same day, the New York Times also ran “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All” dissecting how government-mandated “daddy leave” has transformed parenthood and gender roles in Sweden since becoming law in 1995. Divorce and separation rates have dropped dramatically, and shared custody has increased. One wife said she finds her husband most attractive “when he is in the forest with a rifle over his shoulder and the baby on his back.” Rambo Dad, here we come.


And there’s even a documentary film, “The Evolution of Dad: Fatherhood is Finally Growing Up” by Dana Glazer. The 94-minute film “explores the changing role of fatherhood and meets some of the most unique and heroic dads of the new millennium. Prepare to be inspired and moved.”


Fawning articles, daddy support groups, documentary films: this is no trend. Not a manufactured-holiday-media-excuse-for-feel-good-articles. The new fatherhood is a movement that is gaining serious momentum, and is here to stay. Recent University of Maryland sociology data shows that dads today spend more than three times as much time with their children versus their own fathers – and the numbers are increasing every year. Which is a good thing for dads, kids, our entire country – and perhaps most of all, good for moms.


One of the benefits of 13 years of motherhood is that it takes a lot to get me riled up these days – ditto for inspired and moved, unless it’s the promise of a 94-minute afternoon nap in a bed I have all to myself. As a result, at first I looked askance at the boys joining the parenthood movement. Probably because my parenthood party is skidding into the teenage years and it’s been a long time since I worked up a froth about how many diapers my Darling Husband changed. What matters now is who is doing the 11 pm Bar Mitzvah carpool, not the 1 a.m. feeding. It’s tempting to play the wise seasoned mom, smiling kindly on the daddy support groups and the Baby Bjorn dads swaggering around the playground (exactly as I did 13 years ago).


My husband is a stay at home dad right now. Our son is 5 months old. Thankfully my husband has never been career driven (neither am I...but I like my career a lot) and I am glad we can afford to do this as it is helping me to remain more balanced as a full-time employee and new mom. It certainly made going back to work a little easier as I knew our baby was home with dad. I also know my husband is very devoted to our little one and is having a chance to bond very deeply with him...That in itself is worth the cut in paycheck...Of course it doesn't help that reputable daycare is expensive and the cost doesn't make just any job outside the home attractive. We do take baby to one day of home daycare and I work one 1/2 day at home and have other 1/2 off (I work 9.5 hours on 4 days)...so that gives him some time to get into a different mind space. I feel fortunate to have the work flexibility. Sometimes I do think he could be "doing" more at home but I know that he is doing the most important job in the world: caring for our baby and helping him to grow into a confident little boy. He's a great cook and fixes dinner on most nights and that is a wonderful way to enjoy our evening together...so I get off my "high horse" pretty quick. I must say we've struck a good balance and I know it will change again sometime but for now this is a gift we are all grateful for: a nice-paced family life! Happy Father's Day to all those Dads helping out more and bonding with their children and to those taking the stay at home route!!

Caroline SG

Absolutely! Here is where the revolution really starts at home. My husband works 80% (4 days a week) and I am full-time--both of us in managerial positions with travel, etc. I get asked all the time how I manage as a working mom and my answer always is: my son also has a father.

My husband and I divide and conquer the daily drudge, and both of us treasure every big and small adventure with our son. The other bonus is that our boy (at almost 4) already has a different view of "moms" and "dads" than the traditional one-- he'll grow up thinking it is very normal that Mama sometimes has an "office day" in Norway, and that Daddy takes him to get his feet measured and buy new hiking shoes. We hope we're laying the foundation for a new generation, where "man's work" and "woman's work" is less rigidly defined.


When dads were expected to be the breadwinners and moms the SAH caretakers, it didn't allow for much freedom in either role. Now that we're rewriting the script, everyone benefits, including the kids.

Still, until we can fully embrace men as being the stay-at-home-nurturers (for those who want be) and women as the breadwinners (and having to pay palimony if need be), we have a ways to go. The women's movement gave women options — man and dads need options, too. Do we allow men to choose to work full time, part time or "opt out" when babies come along? Uh, I think not, except for the rare few.

I long for the day when we can stop looking at it as "dads" benefiting or "moms" benefiting, but as "we, the family" benefits. That "we" means that moms and dads are supporting and appreciating each other and whatever options "we" decide work.