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I woke up this morning and watched the sun peek through the blinds. I realized my husband had already gotten out of bed. His familiar voice sang to our daughter, who was erupting in giggles down the hall. I took a deep breath and rolled over for just a few more moments of sleep. I knew I had a long day ahead of me, and I smiled at the beautiful sounds of fatherhood echoing from down the hall.

Like almost 60 percent of American households, my husband and I both work outside the home. And while we both often feel stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed balancing home and work responsibilities, I am lucky we share in our family’s child rearing responsibilities. I’m not alone. Compared to 1965, fathers nationwide have almost tripled the amount of time they spend with their children. And the results of this quality time are evident in the research. Studies show that father-child contact decreases behavioral issues in children and increases a child’s cognitive well-being.

It’s not just the statistics that help me see the importance of the role of dads in family life. I see the benefits firsthand in my own home. In honor of Father’s Day, here are six things great dads have mastered.

  1. Great dads respect their spouse’s contributions to the family. They recognize the value of both stay at home moms and working moms. Great dads also honor and encourage their significant other to achieve both their personal and professional goals.
  1. Great dads understand that caring for their children isn’t “babysitting.” It’s fatherhood. In fact, 46 percent of dads wish they could spend more time with their kids.
  1. Great dads plan for the future. They prioritize saving for college over splurging on fast cars. They invest in bunk beds instead of motorcycles. Whenever possible, great dads consider the value of life insurance, retirement savings, and college funds. That said, great dads also see the value in family vacations and appreciate the pleasure of an occasional splurge.
  1. Great dads might not be able to attend every tea party, baseball game, and parent-teacher conference, but they know mom might not be able to attend every event either. Great dads are flexible and work with their spouse to share parental responsibilities.
  1. Great dads know that by being involved in their own children’s lives, their children are more likely to do the same for the next generation. University of Florida researchers Fogarty and Evans found that “fathers who recall a secure, loving relationship with both parents are more involved in the lives of their infants and more supportive to their wives.”
  2. Great dads don’t always live with their children’s mom, might parent with another great dad, and sometimes are single parents. Family structure doesn’t define a great dad. Being a loving, supportive, and involved father makes a dad great.

Thank you to all the fathers who get up early, go to bed late, and fill their days dancing to the beautiful beat of parenthood.

Stacey Steinberg is a legal skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. She is also a lifestyle photographer and a mom. You can read more of Stacey’s writing on her blog or view Stacey’s photography on Facebook.

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