Millennial dads want to be equal parents—what’s holding them back?

We really couldn’t be more thankful for the dads in our lives. Today’s fathers spend three times as much time with their kids as men two generations ago. Still, despite this progress, the fact is dads trail moms when it comes to household responsibilities: Research shows the majority of new dads believe childcare should be evenly divided between both parents—but most Millennial dads admit that’s not reality in their own homes.

What’s behind this disconnect? To answer that question, we listened to eager-to-help dads who say they remain held back for various reasons. Then we talked to experts for advice to help us all achieve parenting parity.

Defaulting to mom starts early

Nick, a 24-year-old father of one, tells Motherly he had trouble soothing his newborn, so that generally fell to his co-parent. “It was much easier for her mother to calm her down,” he says.

Nick’s experience is not unusual, says licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney. “Because mothers often nurse babies and spend more time with small children, their bond may happen with less effort,” she explains. “Some dads fall in love immediately with their child and connect naturally, but other fathers aren't as quick to know what to do. Sometimes this causes them to hold back and defer to their partners.”

She suggests fathers schedule blocks of baby-duty time when mom isn’t available. “Then he figures out for himself what a certain cry means,” Whitney says. “Figuring that out boosts his confidence, which makes him more likely to participate fully.”

Their dads might not have been equal parents

For Brian, a 33-year-old new father of one, dealing with his daughter’s diaper changes didn’t come easy so he passed that on to mom. He’s not alone: Polls show two out of three moms say modern dads don’t do their share of diaper duty.

That’s not to say we haven’t seen progress. Back in 1982, 43 percent of dads had never changed a diaper—a number now down to about 3 percent. For the men raised by that generation, that may seem like a success. For the women who are still stuck with the majority of diaper duty, it probably feels like there’s a way to go.

“If his dad wasn't as involved as his mom, he doesn't have an internal template for what a fully participating father might look like,” Whitney says. “He may also compare himself to his own father and see the ways he's much more involved than his dad was—when his partner may see the ways things aren't really even.”

For Millennial dads who were raised by men who didn’t do diapers, the changing table may not be their comfort zone. But it is important to try: Research shows bathing, dressing and diapering helps dads build better relationships with their kids long after they’re out of diapers.

Dividing careers and chores—what’s realistic?

Modern dads devote 30 more minutes to daily household chores than their dads did, according to a recent Canadian study. However, moms just do more.

This is no surprise to 34-year-old father of six Simon, who tells Motherly he finds housekeeping, laundry and meal prep to be particularly challenging parts of parenting. He admits he thinks those duties are best left to his wife, a stay-at-home mom.

According to Dr. Gary Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist and parenting coach in Los Angeles, sometimes it’s just not possible for working parents to do as much around the house as their partner. “I know of several families where the father is the primary caregiver and the mother is the primary provider,” he says. “It isn't practical to split parenting roles, unless both parents have equally demanding careers.”

Brown says he and his wife agreed that he should focus on his career (and earning potential) as a therapist while she took a step back from working as a registered nurse to raise their children. In his view, that worked out well for everyone. “From her perspective and mine, it simply made more sense for her to work part-time.”

Families who assume this kind of structure should just be prepared for the trade-offs: Studies have shown that when dads don’t do their share, the couple’s relationship suffers. Indeed, researchers have found the lowest quality relationships between parenting couples happen when 60 percent or more of the parenting responsibilities fall to mom.

That is true in both families with one or two working parents. According to the Pew Research Center, in American households where a father works full-time and the mother works fewer hours or not at all, the distribution of childcare and housekeeping labor is less balanced than in households where both parents work. Even in those dual-income households, moms are still doing about 54 percent of the work.

Dads have come a long way in recent decades—and, often, all it takes to realize that is a good look at a set of wonderful co-parents. Still, old attitudes take time to change: 53 percent of Americans believe moms are better at caring for children, a statistic that shortchanges Millennial fathers who are as enthusiastic about parenting as their partners.

We may not be there yet, but if today’s dads keep it up, our mutual hopes for equal parenthood may soon be a reality.

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and nothing makes you more inventive than motherhood.

Sometimes that means fashioning a diaper out of paper towels and your older child's underpants (true story). Sometimes that means creating an innovative and life-changing weighted baby sleep sack and totally crushing it on Shark Tank. Tara Williams is the latter.

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

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Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

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Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

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For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


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Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


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For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


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A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

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Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


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Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


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This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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