Dads, Childcare and Changing the Stereotypes


Be highly involved in caring for your children, no matter what your arrangement is. Your kids receive great benefits when they can depend on you to do what’s best for them.

Have you ever been somewhere with your kids, and someone asks if you’re “babysitting” them?

For a long time, we dads faced some unpleasant stereotypes. If a dad was left in charge of his kids for any length of time, the expectation was that the house would be a total wreck, the kids would be filthy head-to-toe, and nothing was accomplished around the house.

Now, I must say that some dads earned us that reputation, because they didn’t really embrace their role and all the tasks of caring for their kids.

Also, I’m not convinced that all those things are always even bad. Dads just naturally do things differently from the way moms do them, and in general that’s good for our children. We dads might push boundaries and sacrifice order and cleanliness for the sake of fun bonding with the kids. Many great dads would trade a temporary mess for a memorable afternoon with the kids any day of the week. And who really cares if their outfits don’t match? That’s how we roll. (And I hope any moms reading will understand and support that kind of dad.)

When you do run up against a negative stereotype, I say don’t take it personally. In most cases, life is too short to get upset when people lump us in with other dads who might not be the best. Let’s keep doing all we can to faithfully be there for our children—loving, coaching and modeling for them—and in time we can change the culture and the stereotypes.

But overall, dads are making progress in this area. A recent study found that today’s dads are involved in childcare almost five hours more per week than dads of fifty years ago, and they’re doing almost that much more housework per week. Also, more dads are on board with the notion that it’s important for them to be highly involved in childcare and other upkeep tasks at home.

Related to all this, the number of stay-at-home dads has nearly doubled over the past twenty-five years or so. More and more, parents are discovering that it doesn’t make sense to go to work just to make money to pay someone else to watch their kids. And depending on the couple’s skills and opportunities, sometimes dads are the ones who decide to be home with the kids. Then there are all kinds of hybrid solutions where the dads work part-time or shift their work schedule so they can do a lot of the childcare.

So, what’s best for your family? As you make these decisions with your child’s mom, realize that every situation is unique. Getting wise counsel from other dads in a similar situation is always a good idea.

Bottom line, dad, be highly involved in caring for your children, no matter what your arrangement is. Ten hours a week, twenty hours, or whatever. Your kids receive great benefits when they spend lots of time with you and know they can depend on you to do what’s best for them.

Plus, you’ll be missing out if you don’t get involved. Has childcare come easy for you? What rewards have you found from being involved in caring for your children?

Action Points

• Do you leave some childcare duties for Mom? Step up, brave the smells and messes, and learn to handle some of those.

• When taking care of some routine childcare task, view it as an opportunity to connect with your child a little more. Try to make it a positive experience for both of you.

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