The following was produced in partnership with our friends at Johnson & Johnson.
If you’re the type of guy who thinks, “I wish there was a comprehensive report on the state of America’s fathers in 2016,” today is your lucky day. The 2016 State Of America’s Fathers report from the MenCare Campaign and Promundo just dropped, and it is massive: 140 pages, densely packed with fresh data, observations, and conclusions on everything from work life balance to child rearing practices to federal family policies to sexual education.
If you’re not the type of guy who wishes for a report on the state of America’s fathers … maybe you should be. Raising kids in this country can be emotionally and financially overwhelming and, as the report makes clear, that’s in part because there are massive societal and cultural obstacles to being an engaged dad in the U.S. in 2016.
The report acknowledges that the country has come a long way in the past 30 years but, as Promundo-US President and CEO Gary Baker says in the preface, “We are not yet a child-friendly and parent-supportive country. However, as we present in this report, we know what we need to do to become one.”
“We are not yet a child-friendly and parent-supportive country. However … we know what we need to do to become one.”
You should totally read the whole thing, but you probably won’t because it’s 140 pages and one of your kids will break down the bathroom door long before you get all the way through it. So here are some of the report’s most illuminating and insightful takeaways, plus a summary of it’s recommended next steps to ensure the next State Of America’s Fathers report can be less of a call to action and more of a celebration.
You’re Doing Better Than Don Draper
Over the past 30 years, American fathers have increased the amount of time spent with their kids during the workday by 65 percent. Probably related: 60 percent of fathers in dual-earner households reported work-family conflicts in 2008, which represents a 25-percent increase from 1977. Your desire to be a more engaged dad is running up against the ability — or willingness — of employers to accommodate you.
Your Wife Isn’t As Impressed As You Think She Is
Real talk: 48 percent of heterosexual, currently partnered dads report being the primary caregiver or equal partner, but only 38 percent of women report this as the case. Also, nearly two-thirds of dual-earning mothers still shoulder the primary responsibility for cooking (63 percent) and cleaning (65 percent). Good luck arguing these numbers with the missus.
Everyone Feels Like They’re Dropping The Ball
New data in the report show that, among parents who work more than 40 hours a week, 74 percent of both mothers and fathers feel like they don’t spend enough time with their kids. The report’s authors attribute this to workplace policies better suited for Leave It To Beaver than Modern Family. Basically, the way the country’s companies handle these issues needs to evolve 3 whole generations before it starts to reflect the reality of their employees.
You’re Facing A Double Standard
Another new data point from the report is that the societal expectation of fathers as the primary breadwinner in the family remains a stubbornly ingrained. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those surveyed agreed that the father should be a financial provider for the family, even if he’s an engaged caregiver. The real world effects of this are insidious — it reinforces the wage gap between men and women, and increases the stigma faced by stay-at-home dads, all of which makes gender inequality even more entrenched.
Women Are Doing Better At ‘Men’s’ Work Than Men Are At ‘Women’s’ Work
To further drive home the need for greater gender equality, the report points out that women have made great strides into fields traditionally dominated by men, like medicine and finance. But men have not kept pace going the other way: In 1980, only 2 percent of kindergarten or pre-k teachers were men; in 2014 the number was … 2 percent.
Uncle Sam Must Be The Crazy Uncle Without Any Kids
While workplace policies languish in a different era, the federal government isn’t exactly leaping to help its constituents. Every developed country in the world does better than the U.S. with government-supported time off for new parents because the U.S. offers none. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 at least established unpaid leave for new parents, but only 40 percent of the poorest workers in the country get access to it. Worse, only 5 percent of low-wage earners have access to paid leave through their employers. California, at least, isn’t waiting for federal legislative action — it’s offering its residents paid and reports that low-wage earners who use it have better outcomes with their kids than those who don’t.
Your Definition Of ‘Family’ Might Be A Lot Different Than The Next Guy’s
As of 2014, there were 7.9 million opposite-sex, unmarried couple households in the U.S. As many as half of all American kids will experience living in a single-parent household at some point. Meanwhile, there are between 8 and 10 million non-resident fathers in this country. The traditional nuclear family unit of 2 parents and 2 kids under one roof is as outdated as the workplace policies designed to accommodate it.
As many as half of all American kids will experience living in a single-parent household at some point.
You Need To Get Better At ‘The Talk’
Sexual education is so politicized in the U.S. that there is very little consistency from state to state, and many states don’t require it at all. This matters because when boys learn about healthy sexuality, contraception, and consent early on, they’re statistically more likely to grow into responsible partners and engaged fathers. But as many as half of students between grades 7 and 12 say they want or need more information about sexual health, and another study found 30 percent of teenage of boys received little or no sex ed at all before having sex for the first time.
Go See A Doctor
Men ages 30 to 44 are 3 times less likely than women to have visited a physician in the past year. And, just to prove that you’re as pigheaded as your spouse claims you are, 24 percent of men in the same study admitted to waiting as long as possible before seeking help for health issues. If you’re that guy, your idea of manhood is likely strongly wrapped up in a believe in your own physical strength, which is probably going to kill you early and leave your children with far greater burdens than if you just went to see damned doctor already.
If You’re Spanking Your Kid, You Might Want To Stop
Sixty eight percent of U.S. adults think that spanking is an acceptable form of punishment, despite recent studies that show it leads to increased aggression, poor academic performance, depression, and other long-term health risks for kids. The report stops short of recommending that parents spare the rod, but it effectively draws painful parallels between how physical violence in the parent-child relationship perpetuates a culture with destructive notions of masculinity.
What Can Be Done To Address All Of The Above
The report lays out a series of recommendations for action, based on 3 major conclusions:
- The gender-based boundaries between caregiving and breadwinning have begun to crumble and today’s dual-career parents demand new policies that support them.
- Today’s diversity of households demand new policies that give every child a chance to thrive.
- Systemic inequalities based on ethnicity and socioeconomic status demand new policies to support all families.
The authors then go on to list 8 steps to take. They are:
- Teach all of our children, from early on, about the value of — and their opportunity to be — both caregivers and professionals.
Improve services and education — related to sexuality, caregiving, violence, and parenting — for youth and adults.
- Pass national paid, equal, and non-transferable leave for mothers and fathers.
- Push for supportive workplaces.
- Encourage men to enter health, caregiving, and teaching professions.
- End the unnecessary battle of the sexes over fit parents’ custody of children in cases of divorce and separation, and enact legislation to promote shared custody in the interest of gender equality and children’s well-being.
- Support the poorest fathers and families with a living wage, a reformed justice system, and additional services that encourage and support their caregiving.
- Count fathers and carry out more research on fathers.
And, if you can’t get behind those ideas, what did you have kids for in the first place?