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Changing roles of America’s young fathers

Posted: June 14, 2013 5:50 p.m.
Updated: June 14, 2013 5:50 p.m.

Kunle Olofinboba poses with his sons Kanmi, 9, left, and Tomi, 5, at Santa Clarita Park in Saugus on Friday. Olofinboba says he spends more time with his kids than his father did with him. Signal photo by Jonathan Pobre

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Something is changing with today’s young fathers. By their own accounts, by their wives’ testimony, and according to time-use studies and other statistics, more men are doing more around the house — from packing school lunches and doing laundry to getting up in the middle of the night with a screaming infant.

“He is a big help with the house,” said Canyon Country resident Renee Handley of her husband, Joe Handley. The Handleys have a 6-year-old son and were enjoying Valencia Heritage Park with him on Friday.

“He cooks, cleans, and does laundry.”

But the changing role of father is not just about sharing chores. For dads in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, being an involved father is part of their identity.

They blog about changing diapers, they chat nonchalantly with colleagues about breastfeeding, and they trade recipes for baby food while working out with guys at the gym.

Creed Anthony, 37, a teacher and father of two in Indianapolis, recalled standing in a hallway at work “talking about breastfeeding with three women. It was natural. They didn’t bat an eye.”

Another conversation with colleagues, male and female, involved “poopy diapers, puke and eating cycles,” he said. “And there are a number of guys at school who talk to each other about these things, whether it’s ‘my son’s getting up at two in the morning, he’s got this diaper rash, what did you do?’ or running a vacuum cleaner to help a colicky baby.

“It’s funny, but it’s perfect.”

Part of why dads are doing more around the house may be that women are doing more in the workplace. A study from the Pew Research Center this month found that mothers are the breadwinners in a record 40 percent of families.

At the same time, the number of stay-at-home dads is twice what it was 10 years ago — though still a relatively small number at 176,000. “We have a lot of dads at school that are stay-at-home dads,” Handley said.

“Even with fathers working, they are spending more time with their kids,” he said.

And in two-thirds of married couples with children under 18, both parents work, according to the U.S. Census.

“We both work full time so we both physically share the responsibility,” Kunle Olofinboba, a Canyon Country father of two, said of himself and his wife.

As working moms increasingly become the norm, and as their financial contributions become more critical, they’re doing less cleaning and cooking.

A Pew study released in March shows that since 1965, fathers have increased the amount of time they spend on household chores from four hours to 10 hours a week.

Women still do more, but as Dad’s share goes up, Mom’s goes down: In the same time period, mothers reduced their housework from 32 hours a week to 18.

Dads have also tripled the amount of time they spend with children since 1965, even though moms still put in about six more hours a week with kids than dads overall, according to the Pew study.

“The responsibility is now shared equally,” said Layo Olofinboba, wife of Kunle Olofinboba.

“He’s really involved in the kids’ lives,” she said of her husband. “He signs them up for activities: soccer and swimming. They do a lot together.”

Asked if he thinks he spends more time with his kids than his father did with him, Kunle Olofinboba answered, “Oh, yes!”

Jay Fagan, a sociology professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and founding editor of the academic journal “Fathering,” says the inverse relationship between hours worked outside and inside the home makes sense:

“When the mother is working full-time, it is impossible for her to do everything.”

But there’s another aspect too, he notes: “The more you earn, the more it buys you out of some of the mundane responsibilities.”

Fagan says “there’s no question that young fathers are far more involved,” not just in how much time they spend with kids, but also in “their sense of who they are as individuals — their personal identities.”

But he noted that the trend of sharing child care and housework is “largely happening among college-educated couples.” Families where parents lack college degrees and are struggling with unemployment are “more likely to be raising their children as single parents,” he said. “It’s a real concern.”

Even in two-parent families, how much dads do around the house depends on “how much the mother is working and how much she is earning,” Fagan added.

An ongoing study of how Americans use their time shows that the more mothers earn, the more fathers do at home. “Father’s involvement goes down if she’s not working full-time and if her earnings are much less than his,” he said.

Fagan added that there is also a downside to a world where dads and moms not only both work full-time, but share all the chores, too.

“Now everybody’s exhausted,” he said. “The issues of work-family balance did not go away.”

 

 

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