Photo: Chris Benson
Fifty years ago, mothers were fully in charge of raising kids, while dads only had to worry about feeding, bathing, and keeping their children alive for a maximum of two-and-a-half hours a week. Today, fathers see being a dad as central to their identity. Now, they spend about eight hours a week, on average, on childcare duties. But for many dads that still does not feel like enough.
In a survey of over 1,700 men and women ages 25 to 45, Promundo and Dove Men+Care found that more fathers want to be actively involved in their children’s lives, but feel held back by stigma and their jobs.
Dads want to prioritize their children over their work but worry about losing their jobs if they do. One in five men said they were afraid of losing their job if they took the full amount of paternity leave.
Fathers want to be caregivers, but workplaces don’t support them
In the survey, men and women said that childcare was equally important to them. Dads want to be there for their children, but feel like they do not have a choice but to keep working. Seventy-three percent of dads agreed that workplaces provide little support for fathers. And they would be right. Paid parental leave is still a privilege given to the few. The U.S. does not guarantee that a father or mother will get it. And only 38% of parents nationwide can afford to take unpaid family leave.
Beyond a lack of workplace support, traditional gender roles still prevent fathers from becoming caregivers. Men and women surveyed clearly saw the benefits of giving Moms paid leave, but they were more doubtful of the benefits of paid paternal leave. But study after study has found that paid family leave is not just a mother’s issue, it’s a family issue.
Children benefit from a father’s early presence in their life. Fathers who took longer family leaves were more likely to be involved in the day-to-day of their child’s life later on, one study found. Children even grow up smarter when Dad is there more. Only half of the participants surveyed believed this finding, but it’s true — children do get higher test scores when fathers get involved at an early stage. The Department of Labor reported that paternity leave is associated with higher cognitive test scores for children.
Workplaces and society need to catch up to what studies already know — when fathers get to spend more time with their children, everyone benefits.