In The Daddy Shift, author Jeremy Adam Smith sets out to explore the “movement of fatherhood from solely breadwinning to both breadwinning and caregiving.” He does this by drawing on data from various fields of study (economic, religious, sociological, psychological), as well as examples of real families with “reverse traditional” caregiving/breadwinning models. This mix makes the book very readable, and also provides food-for-thought to draw on as each of our families find our own way.
Certainly we see the shift that Smith describes within our at-home dads group, but I also see a shift for my dad friends who work full time outside the home. Most fathers I know are very involved with their families and are proactive home cooks, laundry washers and folders, dishwashers, etc. I see many Dads at pick-up and drop-off at my son’s pre-school. Dads organize playdates. Dads make doctor’s appointments. It seems to me that no aspect of family life is the exclusive domain of one parent over the other. Smith’s research points to a gender convergence, “an ever increasing similarity in how men and women live and what they want from their lives.”
Smith’s research also helps to debunk the many myths associated with dads as caregivers. Though my decision has always felt natural and reasonable, like many stay-at-home dads, I have felt the little jabs coming from the outside world—the lady on the street that asked, “Where’s Mommy? Baby needs his Mommy” or the preacher that claims stay-at-home dads are lazy and going to hell because we don’t provide for our family, or the legislator from Missouri that excludes stay-at-home fathers from legislation because “Mothers are natural nurturers. Fathers are not. It goes back to the hunter and gatherers type.” Smith addresses each of these myths and many others to conclude that “caregiving dads are ordinary guys of many cultures and educational levels who have a range of motivations for taking care of kids.”
The Daddy Shift is an excellent read for all parents looking to find balance and truly enjoy and appreciate their families. Smith asserts that the successful twenty-first-century family needs “to prize time with children and to feel grateful for each other’s contributions and sacrifices, whatever they may be.” Cheers to that.