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New generation of deeply involved dads is shifting idea of the American family

Christopher Braman with sons Alex, 7, and Isaiah, 3.
Christopher Braman with sons Alex, 7, and Isaiah, 3. (Family photo)

There's also the challenge of everyday parenting: getting them out of bed, fed, dressed, dropped off at day care and school before heading to his service desk job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Then it's the race in reverse to do pickup, dinner, bedtime.

Braman is an extreme example of the New Dad, but he is among a generation of pioneers who are changing the landscape of the American family.

Whereas our dad archetype has been a nervous man pacing in the delivery room, fumbling the newborn, clueless about the PTA and stepping forth only when it's time to harass a prom date or coach Little League, today's generation of fathers is more involved than any other.

Like Braman, they don't have fatherhood thrust upon them, they dive into their kids' lives.

It's beyond fishing, the summer cabin and sports. The New Dad is increasingly ducking out of work early, no matter how many dude points he may lose for it, to go to parent-teacher conferences, doctor's appointments, play dates and pickup duty.

Time-use surveys tell us that the gap in the amount of time men and women spend caring for children is closing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey for 2008 said that in cases in which a mom and a dad work full time, the mom spends 1.2 hours a day caring for a child and a dad spends 49 minutes.

But statistics don't tell the story of a societal sea change in the ways dads are involved, the massive shift that this generation of fathers has undergone.

In the past 10 days, my husband attended a kindergarten play, endured a three-day camping trip, went to two T-ball practices, two school picnics, a class birthday party, did the school pickup for both kids twice and washed their hair every bath night (his punishment for the latest egregious parking ticket). Last night, he collapsed in his recliner/king's throne, flipped up the foot rest and proclaimed: "This week, I did more with the kids than my father did throughout my entire childhood."

He is absolutely right.

Happy Father's Day, New Dads. We'll do the grilling tonight.

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