Dads Have More Roles Than Ever. This Father’s Day, Celebrate Them.

The image of the stoic, hands-off dad is slowly giving way to more engaged, proactive, and sensitive fathers. It's time to celebrate that.

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This story has been produced in partnership with the maker of Enfamil, and the award-winning Enspire, the only formula with immune-supporting Lactoferrin added as an ingredient.

The dufus dad, the one who doesn’t have a clue when it comes to parenting, is an idea that just won’t seem to die. Sure, decades ago, dad might have been a blur of tweed pausing barely long enough to tousle a head of hair before heading back out into the world of vaguely defined “business.” But today? Hardly. And still, you’ll find tons of commercials featuring someone rolling their eyes at a flailing dad who is completely baffled by the concept of a diaper.

The modern dad is, simply put, a parent. As such, they take on parenting roles. Dads are nurturers, educators, emotional supporters, and shoppers — fully engaged in their child’s health and development from day one. It’s something that, this Father’s Day, is worth acknowledging and celebrating. Dad does a lot. This is good for the kids. This is progress. We can all say Happy Father’s Day to that.

Dad As Nurturer

Consider this: In 1965, the average father spent 16 minutes a day with their children. They spent more time hard-boiling eggs. The good news, however, is that that number had tripled by 2016. Men are putting in more time as parents, and the results are tangible.

Just being around helps a lot. Studies have shown that children with present fathers are less likely to go to jail, engage in dangerous or reckless behavior, and even have higher IQ scores. And the earlier a father holds an infant, the stronger the attachment grows, according to a 1999 study called “Development of the Father-Infant Attachment in Fathers of Preterm Infants.” The same things that are vital between a mother and baby in the first few days – feeding, holding, skin-to-skin contact – are just as vital for the father.

How to Celebrate the Nurturer: A recent study dove into the idea that even though modern dads are getting more involved, they may not have a well of their own experience to draw from and are kind of winging it. So to celebrate the nurturer, it might be helpful to pinpoint the nurturing. A card that says, “I love you because you hold me when I’m sad,” goes a long way indeed.

Dad As Partner

How a father interacts with a child is, of course, only part of the whole child-rearing experience. There’s laundry to be done. There are errands to be run. A home is a beehive of activity and the responsibilities shouldn’t fall on just one pair of shoulders if possible.

The notion of childcare being only “woman’s work” is noticeably changing. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 57 percent of fathers said that being a parent was central to their identity, compared to 58 percent of mothers. Of that group, 54 percent of men reported that parenting is rewarding all of the time. In 2016, stay-at-home dads made up 17 percent of all stay-at-home parents, meaning more and more men were taking up the responsibilities not only of childcare but housekeeping, planning, paying the bills, and even vacation logistics that support their partner as much as it helps the children.

And then there’s what’s known as “emotional labor,” the often invisible work that goes into making a house a happy home. The emotional tasks of running a family — keeping tabs on everyone’s emotional states — doesn’t always get defined because the tasks are so typically absorbed by women. But these roles, and who takes them on, matter. Kids who grew up watching dad lounging around while mom did all the work and took care of the emotional highs and lows of the children will naturally start to think this is how things should be. As modern fathers shift the narrative and take a more active role, they are planting seeds that will forever change what “normal” parental roles are for generations.

How to Celebrate the Partner: A great way to show that dad’s efforts are appreciated is by encouraging kids to take an active part in helping or rewarding them. If he’s the house chef, get him and the kids matching aprons so the kids can assist (and he can teach). If he does repairs and odd jobs, maybe replace a worn tool for Father’s Day.

Dad As Shopper

A 2016 study found that between 2013 and 2016, the amount of time dads were spending shopping for groceries rose 62 percent. And it’s not just wandering the aisles, Dads are becoming more educated shoppers all around, once again proving that the hapless TV commercial Dad is a trope of the past.

A recent consumer study found that millennial dads, in general, do much more of the shopping than their predecessors, and are much more tech- and consumer-savvy than before. Because wanting to be involved in childcare is one thing, but putting in the work is another. Fathers have resources at their disposal to help them not only know how to cover the basics — but inspire them to know the intricacies of what makes one brand different from another, and which ingredients are important for their child. It’s taking the supportive partner role out from behind the closed doors of the house into the real world

How to Celebrate the Shopper: Dads are putting in the time to educate themselves, but that doesn’t mean he won’t appreciate some help. Make a list of all the important shopping decisions he’s made for the family — from the stellar swing to his weekly grocery run, for example. Do your own research and acknowledge how taking the time to find the right product matters and the details — like the fact that Enfamil Enspire has ingredients like Lactoferrin (which supports the immune system) and brain development-supporting Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) components — help the whole family. It’s being informed, proactive, and thoroughly engaged.

Dad As Lover

Shedding the ill-fitting suit of old dad “norms” hasn’t just made children healthier and homes happier, it is slowly giving men the green light to openly and unabashedly show, and talk about, their feelings. A 2014 study into gender stereotypes discovered that “stereotypes about men being stoic and women being emotional are reinforced by our day to day consumption of media and our social interactions.” The data, however, showed “that men feel emotion just as much as women, sometimes more strongly, but are less willing to express these emotions openly due to expectations put on them by society.”

These expectations are changing. Dads are allowing themselves to show the whole spectrum of what a man can be. It’s playing catch and playing dress-up. It’s teaching how to ride a bike and teaching how to handle disappointment. It’s saying “I love you” and giving hugs.

How to Celebrate the Lover: For a long time, it seemed like love was expressed to dads in more of a “show, don’t tell” way — the old stereotype that a thoughtful nod or a shared beer was enough to communicate affection. But it’s not. Use your words and tell your dad you love him. Write in his Father’s Day card in huge letters. Be open with your affections, and he’ll return the favor.

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