7 Myths & Realities of Today's Dad

Sixty years ago, moms and dads had pretty defined roles in the American family. Dad went out and made a living, while mom took care of the home. She cooked, cleaned, and did the lion's share of the childcare, while dad spent his time earning the money that kept the family afloat. For some, this system worked. But for many, it was ultimately unsatisfying, which is why now, decades later, things have changed so dramatically. 

Today it isn't uncommon to see a dad at the park alone with his kids. Dads are more involved than ever. Of course, the old ways still peek through sometimes, and with them come a series of myths about the bumbling or clueless dads of old. Here are seven of the biggest myths about dads and the new reality that sets them straight:

1. Myth: Dads should be the breadwinners.

Reality: Stay-at-home fathers are more common than ever, says Dr. Harley Rotbart, a pediatrician and author of No Regrets Parenting and the upcoming 940 Saturdays. The National At-Home Dad Network estimates that at least 1.4 million dads are at home with their kids.

"Today, men are embracing fatherhood in ever-more intense and meaningful ways," says Dr. Rotbart. "[Staying home is] the ultimate in commitment to fatherhood, of course, but many millions more dads have chosen to be involved in their kids’ lives in ways their own fathers never did for them."

2. Myth: If Dad works outside the home, he shouldn't have to wake up with the kids during the night.

Reality: Getting up in the night isn't the sole responsibility of the mom anymore. In our house, only I can nurse the baby, but my husband is capable of changing diapers and rocking and shushing. Most families we know have chosen to mix it up and not leave only one parent responsible for night wakings.

3. Myth: Dads shouldn't be at the baby shower.

Reality: For my own baby shower eight years ago, my husband was present and proud. I can't imagine it any differently. Our daughter is his baby, too! 

Just how moms-to-be also have baby showers to celebrate a new arrival to the family, fathers-to-be now also now celebrate. Fathers show a much greater pride in fatherhood and their daddy status.

4. Myth: Dads can't be as nurturing as moms.

Reality: In my house, my children run to daddy first if they skin their knee. He is just a more sensitive person than their "buck up and deal" mama.

"I treasure being able to stay home and raise my children," says Mike, in Michigan, who stays home to care for his 6-year-old twins and 8-month-old baby. "A lot of my friends ask how I can do it because they never could do it 24/7. But I get to see (and teach) the Firsts of everything. To me, as long as my children are growing up in an environment that is loving, caring, and supportive, it doesn't matter which parent is doing it -- as long as it's best for my children and family." 

5. Myth: Dads can't dress their kids (esp girls).

Reality: My husband may not have the same attention to detail I do when it comes to clothing for our children, but there is no doubt he is just as capable as I am of brushing their hair and getting them ready for school.

Last year a photo of a father doing his daughter's hair went viral because it was so cute. But you know what? It's the norm now. It's happening every morning in so many homes all across the country.

6. Myth: Dads don't need to be at pediatrician appointments or prenatal visits.

Reality: My own husband attends every well visit with me for all three of our children no matter how busy his work is. Dr. Rotbart says that is much more the norm now.

"In my own practice over the past three decades, I have observed dramatic changes in the number of fathers accompanying their kids to physician visits -- either solo or with mom," Dr. Rotbart says. "Dads are researching kids’ health on the Internet and asking physicians relevant questions about child safety, preventive medicine, anticipatory guidance, vaccines, and antibiotics."

7. Dads can't be involved until the baby is older.

Reality: Yes, nursing a baby is a full-time job for mom and the bulk of that falls on her. But that doesn't mean dads can't lend a hand in other ways.

He can change diapers, rock the baby, bounce her, play with her, and more. For many men, it's difficult, but there ARE things he can do.

Asking around for this article, a friend told me she was slightly offended. She pointed out that HER dad did all these things (and more) 25 years ago. It's true that there have always been good, involved dads. The difference now? Those dads are being recognized and respected.

"What we have seen in the past two generations has been revolutionary. Perhaps not as revolutionary as the women’s movement, but in a more understated way, men have had their own movement," Dr. Rotbart. "The 'Fatherhood Movement' has impacted their kids, their spouses, and perhaps most importantly, the dads themselves. Dads now know the joy of parenting."

by The Stir's Sasha Brown-Worsham