Dads Redefine Fatherhood

Dads Redefine Fatherhood

But They Can’t Match Mom’s Intensity

Dads have redefined their role as parents. This change is driven by Gen X dads, who now make up the majority of dads with kids under 18 at home. As the chart below from Boston College’s The New Dad report shows, these dads define being “involved and present in child’s life” and being “a teacher, guide and coach” as highly important to their role as a good father. In comparison, traditional, ‘old-style,’ roles like providing “discipline” and “financial security” now rate lower for dads.  Of note, doing “your part in the day-to-day childcare tasks” is considered on par with “discipline.”

Dads Redefine Fatherhood

Dad’s Changing Role

Dan, an MBA student who was interviewed for The Fatherhood Study, describes his parenting approach and contrasts that to his own father’s style:

“Just level of engagement I guess, you know, to get more involved in my son’s activities as he grows up.  Probably more than my dad did….my dad just always kind of set the line in the sand, and if you strayed outside of the acceptable…[he] was there…to get you back on the right path…I’d like to have a little bit more of a give and take interaction, kind of a mentorship role with my son.”

Pew analysis finds that, since 1965, fathers have nearly tripled the time they spend with their children– to an average of 7.3 hours per week.  The increased time means they are not just aspiring to be more involved, they are doing it.

While the involvement is welcomed, moms sometimes question the finding that dads are doing more. That may be because moms on average have more than doubled the hours each week they spend in paid work and are also spending 40% more time on childcare than moms in 1965.

Parents experience high levels of enjoyment while engaged in child-care, with 35% rating their mood as very happy, comparable to the 41% who rate leisure time as very happy.   Housework rates much lower at 21%, and housework is notably lower for men than women.

Dad and Mom Both Struggle to Find Time

Dads and moms have demonstrated through their actions that more childcare time is part of their definition of being a good parent.  With more than 60% of moms now working full-time and the majority of dads also working (only 3% of homemaker parents are dads), the time commitment to being more involved creates challenges as working parents of both genders want to be present at their child’s activities that occur during work hours and need the flexibility to alter their paid work schedule to do so.  In fact, the Boston College Fatherhood study finds that 60% of fathers now experience work-life conflict, compared with 45% of mothers.

Different Levels of Intensity. Despite Dad’s Aspirations, Housework and Physical Childcare Are More Mom

The Boston College Fatherhood study shows that most fathers aspire to sharing equally in childcare, but that mom generally still provides more care.

Similarly, Pew reports that moms still spend 75% more time than dads on housework and nearly double the weekly hours upon child-care.  A closer examination reveals that both parents spend equivalent time in playing with kids.

Moms outpace dads in educational childcare time (i.e., reading, homework), and in physical and managerial childcare duties.  When it comes to housework, dads do virtually all the home/car repair (4 hours per week), and have increased their time on cooking and cleaning to almost 5 hours per week, for a total of nine hours.  Moms average over 14 hours on cooking and cleaning.

In dual income families working fathers and mothers spend the same total hours on combined housework, childcare and paid work, but the balance is different.  Working mothers spend more time on housework and childcare, while working fathers spend more time on paid work.

Regardless of who is spending more time, conflicts can arise around standards or how things are being done.  As I’ve written about before, ,moms are more intense in their prioritization of most parenting areas, ranging from the quality of their child’s education to the importance of healthy food.  So, when it comes to the definition of a clean house or a good meal for their kids, there may not be agreement.  Mom is more intense, and Dad may just not agree.  Stay-at-home dad Paul’s wife who was interviewed for Boston College’s The New Dad report provides a good illustration:

“I still do stress some about how clean the house is, because my husband does not clean the house as I would like.”

The Effect on Marketing Strategies

More and more, marketing strategies are recognizing dad’s increased parenting and childcare commitment, while at the same time recognizing moms’ parenting intensity.  Nokia’s humorous recent execution shows parents dueling to get better video and photo footage of their child’s school show:

The “Everything You Do” execution from Tylenol celebrates parents’ commitment, and shows both moms and dads rather than speaking to one or the other:

And in a true cooking coup, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line now includes men. What is your brand’s approach to new family roles?


Leave a comment
  • Bad choice for the Nokia commercial. How is everyone beating the heck out of everyone else humourous? So you equate a woman headbutting a guy with her 'parenting intensity'? Would you say the same thing if he headbutted or slapped her? If this is 'marketing strategy', it's little wonder most men have looked like demonized buffoons in commercials for the past 15 years. That is, except for Mr. GQ Perfect at the end of the commercial.

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    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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