Few things are more heart-punching than a dad with tears in his eyes. The Super Bowl Toyota Camry commercial featuring a weepy father wishing his military-bound daughter farewell compelled me to swiftly text my pops, sans context: “LOVE YOU, DADDY” -- and reflect on the perception of fatherhood in American culture.
The data on fatherhood in America suggests there's something changing, as the traditional idea of a dad is shifting from merely “responsible” to “emotionally invested.” Maybe a little manly tenderness is good for the economy:
A paper published this month in Academy of Management Perspectives finds "the more time fathers spend with their children on a typical day, the more satisfied they are with their jobs” and the less likely they want to leave their companies.
Time spent with children had "a significant positive effect on job satisfaction, a significant negative effect on job-withdrawal intentions, a significant negative effect on work-family conflict, and a significant positive effect on work-family enrichment."
The fathers surveyed reported support from management because, apparently, actions like leaving early to take your kid to soccer practice are seen as noble and respectable. It should also be noted that women don’t enjoy the same perception privilege: Only 21 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew in a poll said more mothers working outside the home is good for society.
It’s okay to cry, guys. Really.
The number of fathers who stay home to watch children for any reason has nearly doubled since 1989, when 1.1 million were in this category.That figure peaked at 2.2 million in 2010, just after the official end of the recession, and has fallen slightly, driven mainly by declines in unemployment, according to a Pew analysis of Census Bureau data.
Most stay-at-home parents are mothers. But fathers represent a growing share of all at-home parents: 16 percent in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1989. Today, one in five fathers is the primary caregiver of preschool-age children when the mother is employed, White House data shows. In the last quarter-century, the number of stay-at-home dads with a working mom doubled.
Roughly a quarter of these dads report they are home mainly because they cannot find work, according to Pew. Twenty-one percent, however, say the main reason is to care for their home or family. That’s a fourfold increase from 1989, when only five percent of stay-at-home fathers cited that same reason.
A record eight percent of American households with minor children are headed by a single father, up from just over one percent in 1960, Pew found.
The number of single-father households has surged nearly ninefold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011. The number of single-mother households, on the other hand, increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011 from 1.9 million in 1960.
Today, 70 countries offer paid leave for fathers. President Obama recently granted federal employees the opportunity to take paid parental leave and asked Congress to bestow the same benefits to all workers. Social scientists say men who spend time with children in the first months of their lives are more likely to be deeply involved in the long run.
Today, most American dads don’t take much time off work following the birth of a child. About 76 percent of new fathers surveyed by Boston College researchers went back to work after one week or less; 96 percent returned after two weeks off or less. Lost pay and social pressures stand in the way of longer time off.
More than 40 percent of mothers are now the sole or primary source of income for the household, according to White House data. This reflects both a rise of single mothers -- 65 percent participate in the labor force -- and the fact that more married women are out-earning their husbands. Twenty-four percent of married women now earn more than their husbands, compared to only seven percent in 1970.
“What makes a man stronger?” a Dove Men+Care ad asked during the Super Bowl. “Showing that he cares.”
The company famous for tackling body issues is now taking on gender roles. A Dove survey of thousands of men in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil and China found that only seven percent can relate to the way the pop culture depicts masculinity. Ninety percent saw caring side as a sign of strength. Eighty-six percent said the idea of masculinity has evolved, compared to their father's generation.