We’re entering a new age of fatherhood, says new study

But here's what dads need to keep the momentum going.

We’re entering a new age of fatherhood, says new study
@rohane via Twenty20

The last few months have been a non-stop barrage of bad news, but on Father's Day we can appreciate some good news that's come out of 2020: New research from Harvard finds nearly 70% of fathers United States feel closer to their children now than they did before the coronavirus pandemic.

Fathers of all races, political affiliations, education and income levels are closer to their kids due to COVID-19, say the researchers behind the new report How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers' Relationships with Their Children.

This report comes from the Making Caring Common project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and saw thousands of fathers across the country surveyed about how the pandemic has impacted their parenting. "I think that it has reinforced the importance of family as we try to spend time together every day now," said one dad.

Another father said his relationship with his child has improved remarkably during this historically difficult time: "Staying and working from home has greatly helped in improving my bond with my little girl. It has brought us together closer than before. She freely shares her thoughts with me, what interests her and what she wants from me. We play games together nearly every other day and I have become her partner in so many other things too."

Motherly's own COVID-19 survey found moms are reporting an increase in their partners' participation in household responsibilities (including childcare). Taken together, the data from the Making Caring Common project and Motherly's Third Annual State of Motherhood survey suggest we are approaching a new age of fatherhood, one where dads can be the fathers they want to be and one where moms aren't carrying a disproportionate load of family responsibilities.

"Despite women having entered the workforce in high numbers over the past 50 years, mothers have remained the primary caregivers of children," says Richard Weissbourd, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Faculty Director of Making Caring Common, and co-author of the Harvard report. "What we're seeing here is that fathers, many of whom had previously been consumed by their work, have developed a new sense of closeness to their children during the pandemic."

This is why parental leave and flexible work options cannot be seen as women's issues, because they benefit fathers so much, too.

Stephanie Coontz is the Research Director for The Council of Contemporary Families (CCF) is housed at the University of Texas at Austin, where a recent study showed that moms and dads both say dads are doing more of the lifting at home since the pandemic (but disagree about how much).

"The bad news is that dads still expect moms to figure out what the kids need, so when a new responsibility comes up, like having to take over home schooling, women end up doing the heavy lifting," says Coontz. "The good news, when you combine these findings with other studies on the long-term effect of paternity leave, split shifts, and work from home, is that once men begin to see and participate in the invisible labor they used to be able to ignore, most of them step up their game."

According to Weissbourd, the gains in closeness between dads and kids could "easily evaporate after the pandemic," if families, lawmakers and employers don't make the effort to allow this trend to continue.

So this Father's Day, on behalf of America's fathers, their partners and the children who are finally getting to know their dads, we're asking employers to think about what lasting change can come from the pandemic, and how a father shouldn't have to be laid off or working from home to find time for a relationship with his kids. We're asking for change so that our kids can feel as close to dad next Father's Day as they do today.

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