New Trend Alert: Dads Who Actively Parent

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Mothers who feel like they’re been doing all the parenting work lately and can’t even catch a break to go exercise should rejoice at a new and hopefully enduring trend: fathers contributing to the discussion of parenting and encouraging other men to follow suit.

Bryan Caplan, the author of the much buzzed about parenting book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, contributed to the parenting dialogue by writing that “nurturing” your children into becoming physicists, professional athletes, or stellar musicians is fruitless. Caplan cited research indicating that “parents barely affect their children’s prospects” and advised parents to concentrate on encouraging good habits by example as opposed to micromanaging your kid’s calender.

Caplan’s book was published on the heels of “Tiger Mother” Amy Chua‘s book, which advocates the exact opposite of Kaplan’s strategy. While the two books hold completely different points of view and approaches to childrearing, I liked that a man challenged Chua on her mothering tactics — as a father. His study of the topic and willingness to hold up his own family as an example exhibits shifting ideas about men’s roles in parenting.

The same can be said for The Good Men Project Magazine, which was founded in the summer of 2010. The Good Men cover standard topics like sports, health, entertainment (as well as many other topics like inflexible masculinity and domestic violence). But in addition to all this, they also have a regular Families section featuring articles on how to work from home, how men can choose family-friendly careers, and contemplations on at what age men should become fathers. This presents leaps and bounds from other men’s magazines such as, unpredictably, Maxim that ran this choice piece in 2003 entitled “How To Cure A Feminist.” Or this piece in Details, “Can You Still Afford to Be A Player?” depicting a woman in a trashcan.

There is also the very prolific and articulate Hugo Schwyzer, a history and gender studies professor, who blogs often about the relationship between fatherhood and feminism. In 2009,  Hugo wrote about the important role he is able to play in his daughter’s life, primarily because of shifting attitudes about co-parenting:

…my relationship with my infant daughter is, in a very real way, made possible by the critical work feminists did to reframe traditional gender roles. It is thanks to the gains of the feminist movement that I was encouraged and expected to go through every aspect of the pregnancy and birthing process with my wife. It is thanks to the cultural shift initiated by feminists and male allies that I was able to take the time away from work to be there for my wife (a right alas not yet universal). It is thanks to the feminist movement that a generation of committed and dedicated fathers has emerged, fathers who actively practice co-parenting with the mothers of their children.

Novelist and acclaimed writer Simon Van Booy wrote a very moving piece in The New York Times a couple of years ago about his experiences being a single father to his little daughter. He reflects on his “bumbly” attempts to do “motherly” things, but he is nevertheless dedicated to his little girl’s upbringing:

I now hide all fashion magazines… because I’m worried Madeleine will think those models are what she is supposed to look like as a woman.

All of these male contributions to the parenting dialogue are cherished additions that ultimately benefit mothers. Efforts by men to become more of a presence in the home (atleast to women who are partnered to men) are what’s needed to create a more equal role for women, both in their families and in their careers. If men are participating more in the raising of children, the cooking of meals, and other domestic responsibilities, perhaps mothers won’t have to resort to working all night to have a career or feel less guilty about answering a couple work emails from home.