Boston College's Center for Work and Family released a study last month that tracked changes in the way American fathers view themselves and their roles at home and work. The study looked at married, educated, and employed first-time fathers of children between ages 3 and 18 months, and suggests that the concept of dads as primarily breadwinners is outmoded. Today's dads are defining good fatherhood as a relationship involving lots of time, attention, and nurturing. The study also suggested, though, that while fathers may understand their role in these terms, their employers (and others, such as extended families) do not.
In her New York Times article highlighting this and other recent studies on fatherhood, Tara Parker-Pope suggested that dads now "feel as stressed as mom," pulled between expectations to be both a provider and nurturer. "Men are typically the primary breadwinner," Parker-Pope notes, "but they also increasingly report a desire to spend more time with their children. To do so, they must first navigate a workplace that is often reluctant to give them time off for family reasons. And they must negotiate with a wife who may not always recognize their contributions at home."
While the challenges women face in balancing work and family are well-chronicled (though not always understood or accepted), the conflicts working dads face are not. Fewer employers see fatherhood as an increasingly a hands-on, time-intensive role. And though most of the fathers surveyed said they had considered becoming stay-at-home dads, they said finances (dad's salary may be higher than mom's, or both salaries are needed to maintain a desired standard of living) and lingering social stigma prevented them from doing so.
At its close, the ...1
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