News / USA

Modern Dads More Engaged in Child Rearing

New York Dads Reflect Trend of More Engaged Fatherhoodi
X
October 09, 2013 10:42 AM
In many countries, more women are moving into the labor force, even in cultures where women with careers were once a rarity. With mothers at work, many families have had to reorganize. One result: some new fathers today are more likely to be involved in child-rearing - either by choice or for practical reasons. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on what experts call a global trend.
Carolyn Weaver
The most dedicated fathers in the world may be the men of the Aka, a nomadic pygmy people of central Africa.

Fathers spend nearly half their time in close contact with their babies, according to Barry Hewlett, an anthropologist at the University of Washington. His book about the Aka, “Intimate Fathers,” describes how mothers remain the primary caregivers but also go hunting frequently - and in the mothers’ absence, Aka fathers cook the meals and let crying babies suckle on their own nipples.

That custom aside, the Aka sound a lot like the fathers in the U.S. and many other countries who have embraced a deeply engaged, affectionate paternal style, spending nearly triple the time caring for their children as fathers in the 1960s did.

Sixteen-month-old Luna Benjoya, for example, toddles around her Brooklyn apartment most weekdays in the care of her father, Dave, a musician and web developer, while her mother teaches school.  Benjoya has found fewer jobs lately, but says he feels lucky.

“I like my work, and when I find work, I’ll pick it up and do it, but how do you compare that to spending all this time with this new person in the world that you love more than anyone? It’s such a gift. I mean, my daughter’s not going to remember what things were like when she was a year old, 16 months, but I’m still connecting with her in a way that’s irreplaceable,” explained Benjoya.

Lance Somerfield, co-founder of a group called NYC Dads, left his job to be an at-home dad when his son was born five years ago - a choice that would have been seen as emasculating for men of his father’s generation, he said.

“My father thought that being the caregiver to me, and the provider of the family, didn’t mean providing hands-on, engaging interaction with me on a daily basis. It meant earning for the family,” he said. “That was the culture back then. These days, I think our cultural assumptions are starting to shift. You see it in pop culture, in the media, commercials, in how dads are portrayed.”

NYC Dads co-founder Matt Schneider agreed. “The difference between even eight years ago and now is pretty astounding,” he noted. “You go to any playground, any doctor’s office, school pickup, you’re going to see a lot of dads very involved with their kids. The role of dads and families, the relationships between moms and dads, is changing by the day, it seems.”

The trend is worldwide, according to Stony Brook University sociologist Michael Kimmel, driven by women’s entry into the workforce, including in some cultures where women with careers once were a rarity.

“All across the world, men are becoming more engaged as fathers, more active as fathers,” said Kimmel, the author of “Guyland,” and “Manhood in America.” “In Japan, in Singapore, in Australia, men are very more highly motivated to be good fathers.”

“Younger men, Generation Y men, are far more family-oriented than previous generations,” he added. “They assume that their wives are going to work outside the home and be committed to their careers, and they assume that they are going to be really involved fathers, dedicated to their families; they’re going to be great dads.”

“In Europe as well, men are far more involved as fathers,” he said. “But there you have government policies that encourage families to balance work and family better: free onsite child care, flexible working hours, parental leave,” Kimmel added.

The “new” fatherhood, as it’s been called, is especially evident at “boot camp” training sessions for expectant fathers that NYC Dads offers around the city. Experienced fathers, with babies six months or a year old, return to demonstrate their new skills in things like diaper-changing and bottle-feeding.

“For dads-to-be, to be in a room with other, confident veteran dads who come in with their live babies, it’s a real confidence booster,” explained Somerfield. “We hope that through three hours they’re in a room with other dads, talking about their experiences, best practices, and walking out of here saying, ‘You know what, I’m not going to break the baby.’”

Michael Kimmel noted that the egalitarian trend in child rearing is not across the board. He said that heterosexual men tend to spend more time on the “fun” side of child-rearing, taking their children to the playground, for example, while leaving the more tedious aspects, such as scheduling appointments and laundry, to their wives. And he observed that child care can be pretty boring.

Dave Benjoya probably wouldn’t agree with that latter point, however.

“Everything is undiscovered: seeing the simplest thing, and focusing on it because you want to teach it to her,” he said. “Watching like her consciousness, like the communication come from nothing: a little spark here and there, and then she understands words and then she says word. The whole experience is so overwhelming, I could spend all day thinking about it, even when I’m not with the baby,” he said.

Kimmel said that however fathers feel about spending time caring for their children, the benefits to children are clear. He said studies have found that the children of more involved fathers are happier, healthier, do better in school, and are less likely to be the victims or perpetrators of violence.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
October 13, 2013 12:17 PM
The only thing that I can think of after reading this : men know that their spouses are working women who work outside their homes, so they have adjusted themselves into a role that is more into taking care of their children. Well, okay - that's their choice. I am still a little too old-fashioned for that.

by: Keen from: Philippines
October 10, 2013 8:49 AM
I'm elated to read this article because fathers are getting hands on with their children nowadays which is integral in the child's development...This phenomenon also tells us that our society at present is undergoing a major metamorphosis breaking the boundaries of sexism and stereotyping...

by: Jerime.bellbell from: Cebu,Philippines
October 10, 2013 8:14 AM
My hats off to Mr.Benjoya! Parenting truly requires great effort and labor...Nevertheless the joy is beyond comparison especially when you see your child's first...You did a pretty good job Mr.Benjoya and I hope most father or dads in the world are as responsible as you and the rest of NYC dads..Little Luna is quite an adorable baby with a very optimistic attitude already!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs