In Our View: Central Role of Fathers

Being a good dad is as important as it ever was

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Admittedly, Father’s Day can sometimes seem like an afterthought. With the day in their honor coming about a month after Mother’s Day and with mothers, on average, still bearing a majority of child-rearing duties, fathers often play second fiddle.

All of that is a way of reminding you that today is, indeed, Father’s Day — a celebration with origins that can be traced to Spokane and Sonora Smart Dodd. Acknowledgement of the day in the United States began more than a century ago, but it wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Baines Johnson issued an official proclamation declaring the third Sunday in June to be Father’s Day.

Throughout that time, the roles and the expectations of fathers have been greatly altered, and a recent survey by the Pew Research Center offers some interesting insight. Among the findings:

• More than half of all fathers (57 percent) see parenting as central to their identity, and a majority of dads say that parenting is rewarding all of the time.

• Fathers are much more involved in child care than they were 50 years ago. In 2015, dads reported spending an average of seven hours a week on child care — almost triple the time they provided in 1965. In other words, today’s fathers likely spend much more time changing diapers than their fathers did. Modern dads also spend more time on household chores than those of previous generations.

• This input is more needed now than ever before. Among couples with children younger than 18, about one-quarter of them have households in which only the father works; in 1970, that number was 47 percent.

• A vast majority of the public believes that it is important for infants to have an equal amount of bonding time with mothers and fathers, reflecting vast changes from traditional roles of father as bread-winner and mother as care-giver.

Yes, Father’s Day was created largely because mothers had their own day and retailers needed an excuse to sell ties, hammers, and golf clubs. But dads deserve their own day, too, and modern dads are more involved with their children than previous generations.

There has been much discussion about this in recent years, with a decline in the percentage of children being raised in two-parent households. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2016, 69 percent of American children under the age of 18 live with two parents; in 1960, 88 percent of children lived with two parents. During that time, the percentage of children living with only a mother nearly tripled.

This trend can have a profound societal impact. As then-candidate Barack Obama said on Father’s Day in 2008: “Too many fathers are missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.” We agree, and that provides the opportunity to stress the importance of male role models in young lives. Obama, whose father left the family when the future president was 2, said: “I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls.”

Today, we salute those who join him in a commitment to being a good father, to being involved in the lives of their children and being a positive and constant presence. Such dedication is far too important to be relegated to the status of afterthought.