Poo nappies? Just part of the job for the new-age dad
A study shows that millennial fathers are more hands-on, emotionally and physically, than ever before
Millennial fathers aren’t afraid to cuddle, bathe and feed their kids, or change smelly nappies.
“Whether it’s physically being there for a game or piano recital, or emotionally being there to provide warmth or support in a tough time, there appears to be a shift in how fathers are viewing their role,” says a recent study by sociologists at Brigham Young University and Ball State University in the US.
Similar research by the Pew Research Centre shows that in 2016 fathers reported spending, on average, eight hours a week on childcare – triple the amount of time dads spent in the 1960s.
For Samkelo Maseko, dad to a 10-month-old son, this is certainly the case. The television journalist believes fathers should be more emotionally involved in their children's lives.“Your child needs to feel that you are emotionally there for them. As they grow up they need to know that their dad is there,” said Maseko.
For Maseko, whose son lives in KwaZulu-Natal, creating lasting memories is very important. The reporter is based in Johannesburg.
“Whenever I see my son I take him to the zoo, or to a restaurant, or we just hang out at home. I want to build as many valuable memories with him as possible because memories are very important.”
The Brigham Young study also showed a correlation between fathers who exhibit negative masculinity and fathers who are less involved with their children.
For Maseko, fatherhood has helped him better challenge negative masculinity.
“Fatherhood for me has challenged the whole idea that men shouldn’t show their emotions and that we shouldn’t show affection,” Maseko said.
According to the Pew research there has also been a “significant” increase in the ranks of stay-at-home and single fathers.
“At the same time, more and more children are growing up without a father in the home,” the researchers noted.
Pew also noted that dads were starting to see parenting as central to their identity, with 57% of dads being just as likely to say parenting was extremely important to their identity. Some 58% of mothers said the same thing.
This is something Maseko attested to: “Being a father means your child controls your life and the decisions you make. I cannot do as I please. I always have to put him first no matter what.”
A similar sentiment was shared on Twitter last week by broadcast journalist Bongani Bingwa. In an apparent reference to criticism he received after missing a shift on his morning radio show to attend a Father’s Day event at his daughter’s school, Bingwa tweeted the following:The Pew results, from a survey conducted in 2016, showed that seven in 10 adults said it was equally important for newborn babies to bond with both their mother and father.
“Among those who took time off to care for a new baby in the past two years, fathers took a median of one week off,” the survey read.
But this change in dads becoming more active and involved was not only a US phenomenon. Craig Wilkinson of Johannesburg-based Father a Nation, an NGO that aims to teach men to become better fathers, said fatherhood norms had shifted greatly in recent years – with millennials at the forefront.
“It is more acceptable for dads to be involved in activities like changing nappies and feeding. Millennial dads do tend to be more involved fathers,” he said.