If you have just discovered that in a few short months, you will be a dad for the first time, a myriad of questions must be racing through your brain. “Who will care for our baby?” “How will my partner and I juggle work and care?” “What are the most important ideas we wish to share with our child?” The answer to all these questions is a matter of choice – now, we are freer than ever to define the type of father we wish to be. These are just a few of the options open to fathers in the 21st century.
Freedom to Father as We Wish
Although in general, fewer parents are staying home to look after their children than they did 30 years ago, the number of fathers who have put their career on hold to be with their children full-time, has increased. Statistics New Zealand indicates, in the 2013 census, that around 36,000 Kiwi men opted to be stay-at-home dads, compared to 195,000 women. Nonetheless, numbers of men opting for this model have grown consistently over the years, and hopefully, it won’t be too long until percentages even out. Interestingly, in the UK, one in seven fathers are the main childcare provider. For many fathers, their decision to stay at home can be attributed to one or more of the following reasons:
Their spouse’s high earning potential
Their personal wish to be the main care provider
A reluctance to have a third party care for their children all day
The decision to be a stay-at-home dad is a testimony to a greater search for meaning in the 21st century. No longer is modern man defined by what he earns or where his career is heading. These days, a truly successful man, is one that does what truly fulfills him.
Greater Paternal Involvement
Numerous studies have shown the plentiful benefits that arise when fathers take an early hands-on role in parenting. Those who build a bond early with their child, are more likely to maintain this connection throughout their lifetime. A recent study by researchers at Monash University found that 85% of fathers surveyed said they would stop working to look after their baby for three months if there were no financial ramifications. Fathers in the new millennium want to be more involved, which is the first step towards the dream becoming a reality. Of course, it is possible to be involved even when a father is not the main care provider; staying at home with our children is just one option.
Different Types of Dad
The new millennium sees a growing awareness of different types of fathers. These include non-residential dads, divorced dads, and stepdads, and gay dads. Discrimination is dissipating and society has gained great awareness of the fact that great dads come in all shapes and sizes.
Choices in Education
The greater involvement of fathers in their children’s upbringing open a plethora of possibilities regarding education; parents are able to choose between options such as homeschooling vs conventional schooling. Additionally, the bond between fathers and children mean that values which are important to a father (for instance, the importance of nature and the environment, animal rights, human rights) can become an important part of a child’s education.
Father’s roles have changed vastly in the past few decades, with families having more choices in terms of childcare, roles in the home and the workplace, and education. We have come to know and accept several types of fathers in the new millennium, noting one factor that many have in common – greater involvement in their children’s lives.
By Jane Sandwood