Break out the grill.
Families across the country are getting ready to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend. For some people this might conjure a Mad Men-like image—a hands-off Don Draper barbecuing while he leaves the child-rearing to Betty Draper, a stay-at-home mom—the kind of “traditional” family conservatives frequently hold up as the perfect ideal. But in America today, that image simply doesn’t reflect reality.
Here are five things you should know about the more than 70 million dads in the nation:
- Fathers today are more involved. They are more likely to be directly involved with their children than dads of previous generations. Today’s dads also spend substantially more time on housework and childcare than their fathers did, although women still do the lion’s share of chores and parenting.
- Fathers today want more time with their children. Even though dads are more involved with their children than ever before, they aren’t satisfied with their current situation—half report that they have a difficult time balancing family and work, and nearly half say they spend too little time with their children. In fact, one-third of all fathers don’t give themselves high marks when it comes to parenting.
- Family circumstances are changing for fathers. The share of married, stay-at-home dads—while still small—has nearly tripled in the last 20 years. There are also 2.4 million fathers who are raising children on their own—more than ten times as many as there were in 1950. Fathers are far more likely to share the breadwinner role than they did in the past, too. In short, there has been a proliferation in the diversity in parenting situations.
- Today’s families are breaking down stereotypes and redefining fatherhood. Some “fathers” are in fact grandfathers—roughly 1 million grandfathers are primarily responsible for their grandchildren. And young fathers are shedding decades of stigma so they can parent with dignity—without shame and with equal access to the economic, educational, and social supports they and their families need to thrive. And tens of thousands of two-dad families will celebrate a double Father’s Day this weekend.
- Today’s public policies are especially harmful to certain fathers. Punitive criminal justice policies have left some fathers—especially men of color—struggling to raise their kids while incarcerated, or confronting unnecessary barriers to opportunity posed by having a criminal record—such as difficulties finding employment or housing. Draconian immigration policies have torn families apart, leaving children thousands of miles and years away from reuniting with their parents. Inadequate support for adult children with disabilities leaves families struggling to make ends meet for decades, well into the child’s adulthood.
Modern fatherhood comes many forms. So instead of relying on antiquated policies that fit outdated images of fathers and families, we must advance contemporary pro-family policies, including workplace policies like paid sick leave and fair scheduling practices that enable dads to better balance family and work; comprehensive criminal justice reform that breaks down barriers to opportunity; immigration policies that allow families to come out of the shadows and thrive; and economic improvements like raising the minimum wage, access to higher education, and affordable, high-quality childcare that help families achieve the American Dream.
You know Dad doesn’t want another tie this Father’s Day. He doesn’t want the same old public policies that were created for the Drapers either.