Editor’s Note: Back in 2014, City Dads Group co-founders Matt Schneider and Lance Somerfeld were asked to write about what they thought moms, bosses, and others should know about modern dads. Their words, which first appeared in New York Family magazine, still hold true today.
Modern dads can hack it
Generally, we as a society still haven’t quite come around to the idea that dads are also parents. If a dad takes his child on public transportation, goes grocery shopping, or bakes cupcakes for the school fundraiser, he’s a rock star. We’re over-praised by strangers for displaying even the most basic level of involvement in our children’s lives. Recently, on a crowded crosstown bus, Lance was reading a picture book with his son when a lady complimented him for being a “great dad.” What about all of the other moms and caregivers riding the bus with their children? Were they “great” parents too? The bar is still set extremely low for fathers, and we’re asking society to elevate their parenting expectations for us. We can deliver. Just give us the chance.
Today’s fathers love talking about parenting
There’s a mystique and misconception that modern dads keep their feelings inside when it comes to important topics like parenting and relationships. At NYC Dads Group, we have hosted parenting workshops about potty training, happy/healthy sleep habits, admission to preschool, becoming a new dad, and child passenger safety. We have heated conversations during these workshops. Dads were champing at the bit to share their opinions surrounding all topics of parenting. Modern dads want to share best practices for wiping their daughters after a poop, what to do when their kid refuses to nap, or what app they can use to log feedings during the first few months. They also want to vent their many frustrations. There’s the lack of changing stations in public restrooms, the lost spontaneity that comes with strict nap and feeding schedules, and not having enough personal time to pursue hobbies, see friends, or exercise. Today’s dads want to talk parenting — they just need the right forum.
New dads want it all
New and expectant dads are worried about how to be successful at work and successful at home. These dads share their fears and concerns about long hours, business travel, lack of paid family leave and/or flexible benefits, and rigid corporate culture. Not surprisingly, studies show that most dads want to be successful both in their careers and as fathers. We encourage dads to figure out what benefits they have and use them. They need to be transparent with supervisors so their bosses and coworkers know that being a parent is important. After that, we encourage working dads to carve out special time each week to tune in and do something they enjoy with their children.
Modern dads want to be on the team
Parenting is challenging work whether it’s mom or dad in charge. We believe in the idea that dads can be just as nurturing, capable, and confident as moms. Our children need to be fed, cared for, brought to school, assisted with homework, and shuttled to practice. Domestic chores like laundry, cleaning the home, and paying bills need to be tackled, and we’ve drawn the conclusion that it’s so much easier as a high-performance tag team of two. Today’s dads need ample opportunities early and often to learn. Too frequently, moms feel as if they’re the only ones who can properly care for their children, and dads are pushed aside. Please let us fail miserably, pull ourselves up, and learn from our mistakes so we can be capable partners.
Today’s fathers are different
Research shows fathers are more physical with their children. We might push them to take more risks. We also might do less housework, be the “fun” parent, and be more strict disciplinarians.
Frankly, we see plenty of dads on all sides of the spectrum — from the dad who totes around a paring knife and cutting board so fruits and vegetables are prepared at the ready to the dad who doesn’t cook at all and is fine with store-bought snacks. We see the handy dad who turns a milk carton and popsicle sticks into a birdhouse, and dads who pay their building’s super to put together the new toy kitchen. We see the dads who hover over their children as they move from one rung to the next on the monkey bars and dads who encourage their children to scale a 10-foot-high park fence. In our experience, modern dads don’t care about these misconceptions about whether we do it the same or different.
Bottom line? Children benefit from being exposed to various parenting styles. Feel free to find your rhythm, go with your gut, and embrace your differences.