Fatherhood is getting better for America’s 70 million dads … but it still kinda sucks for many of them, according to a new report released yesterday.
The first State of America’s Fathers report, released this morning by Promundo-U.S. gender justice initiative and the MenCare global fatherhood campaign, provides mixed news on how far dads have come. It focused heavily on what needs to improve for the United States to be a truly “child-friendly and parent-supportive country” that benefits moms and kids as well as dads.
“Fathers are more present in the lives of their children than in the past,” Promundo-U.S. CEO and President Gary Barker wrote in the report’s preface. “And they are doing more of the caregiving.”
However, he continues, “[we] have a long way to go.”
“We do not adequately prepare our sons to see themselves as caregivers and as full and respectful partners in sexual and reproductive health. We do not sufficiently support our families, through parent training and other means, to ensure that our children’s lives are free of violence. We have not created a workplace culture that recognizes that being a caring parent and leading a productive work life are not and must not be treated as mutually exclusive,” Barker wrote.
I am one of the 70 million America’s fathers, and I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job. You probably feel the same way about yourself.
My kids haven’t fallen into a gorilla enclosure at the zoo or shaved the cat when our backs were turned. Yours probably haven’t either.
Things could be easier for us, though.
It would be nice to spend more time with our kids. It would be great if daycare and after-school care didn’t cost more than college.
If you’re a single dad or a non-U.S. citizen living here, it might feel like it’s tough to catch a break.
If you’re a stay-at-home dad, there’s a decent chance you feel isolated, tired and maybe a little overwhelmed every now and then. Or every day.
Listen, America’s fathers, this report shows you’re not alone.
The daily obstacles you face toward being the father you want to be – that you believe with all your heart that you need to be – are real, according to this wide-ranging and data-filled report, a follow-up to 2015’s State of the World’s Fathers report by MenCare.
Among the issues America’s fathers face:
- The United States is the only member of the 34-country Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that does not guarantee paid parental leave.
- America’s fathers spend 65 percent more time with their children during the work day than they did 30 years ago, but 60 percent reported struggles with work-family balance in 2008.
- Women spend an average of 66 minutes per day providing physical care to children in households with kids age 6 or younger. America’s fathers spend less than half of that amount.
- Men remain under-represented in caregiving and education professions (teacher, nurse, social worker), even as women have dramatically increased their presence in traditionally male-dominated jobs (physician, attorney, civil engineer).
The State of America’s Fathers report did more than point out problems. It also offered solutions such as:
- Teach all of our children, from early on, about the value of – and their opportunity to be – both caregivers and professionals.
- Improve services and education related to sexuality, caregiving, violence and parenting for youth and adults.
- Pass national paid, equal, and non-transferable leave for mothers and fathers.
- Push for supportive workplaces.
- Encourage men to enter health, caregiving and teaching professions.
- End the unnecessary battle of the sexes over parents’ custody of children in cases of divorce and separation. This includes enacting legislation to promote shared custody in the interest of gender equality and children’s well-being.
- Support the poorest fathers and families with a living wage, a reformed justice system, and additional services that encourage and support their caregiving.
Naturally, it won’t be that simple or quick to fix.
The State of America’s Fathers report reinforces what many American fathers and mothers already know from living through it. It’s tough out there, and we’ve largely been left on our own to navigate the challenges.
“It’s sort of this very private figure-it-out-yourself kind of attitude,” Davidson College sociology professor Gayle Kaufman, one of four subject-matter experts who reviewed and vetted the America’s fathers report, said in an interview with City Dads Group. “And that really isn’t always supportive or critical of the structures that are in place.”
Kaufman, author of the book Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century, expressed hope for the direction of American fatherhood, despite the obvious and complex challenges that still remain. So did Scott Behson, a professor of management at Fairleigh-Dickinson University and another consultant on the America’s fathers report.
“I’m optimistic about the fact that we’re studying this, documenting it, identifying areas for improvement,” Behson, author of the Working Dad’s Survival Guide, said in an interview with City Dads Group. “And I have no doubt that if this report were replicated five years from now, we’d see significant advances in many of the areas.”