What Dads Think of Themselves as Parents

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Dads today are taking on a bigger parenting role but it’s come with a cost, according to an exclusive new study from Yahoo, which reveals that 33 percent of Millennial fathers “feel like they’ve lost their identity” since becoming a parent. (Photo: Rob & Julia Campbell/Stocksy). 

Be honest moms: the last time you saw a father playing with his kids in the park, juggling grocery shopping with a preschooler’s meltdown, or scouring store aisles for a baby gift, did you think, ‘Aw, he’s a rock star for helping out.’ Well, don’t. Ninety percent of dads believe that parenting needs to be a “team effort,” according to an exclusive new Yahoo study with research firms Ipsos and Audience Theory.

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“It’s a partnership,” insists one married 34-year-old father of two surveyed in May. He’s one of 15 dads, ages 25 to 50, who gave in-depth interviews in conjunction with an online survey of more than 600 fathers and nearly 700 mothers about mens’ roles in parenting and their own self-perception. “It’s not 50/50,” he says. “It’s an ‘everybody’s all in’ kind of scenario. One hundred percent, both ways.” Still, it turns out that the degree to which dads are comfortable taking sole responsibility depends on age. 

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More than half of Millennial fathers — born in the 80s and 90s —assume the lead in taking their kids to extracurricular activities (versus 42 percent of Generation X family men who were born in the 60s and 70s), dressing the kids (39 percent versus 22 percent of Gen X-ers) and bathing them (42 percent versus 29 percent). “What we’re seeing is Millennials really going all in with fatherhood and embracing the role, and more so than Gen X-ers,” David Iudica, director of strategic insights and research at Yahoo, tells Yahoo Parenting. “They want to be more present and connected with their kids.”

In fact, 70 percent of stay-at-home dads claim to have taken on the role by choice. And with the number of dads at home having doubled in just ten years, per the U.S. Census Bureau, not to mention the 2 million single dads raising their children, hands-on fathers have officially replaced the bumbling Mr. Mom stereotype from a few decades ago.

It’s worth noting, however, that nearly half of the moms surveyed claim that they prefer more traditional gender roles in terms of household responsibilities. And that stay-at-home dads who report feeling a stigma say it stems from women who hold such views.

A big problem facing these new super dads, though, is work-life balance. Forty-five percent say that despite sharing parental duties, they’re seen as the default parent. For working dads, that means pulling double duty at home and in the office just like working mothers. As a result, 61 percent of dads admit that it’s difficult to balance work and family — nearly the same percent as women (64 percent) who confess feeling the same way.

The study ultimately finds that men grapple with “having it all” as much as women do. What’s more, a third of Millennial dads say they feel like they’ve lost their identities because they are parents. (Just 19 percent of Gen X dads, by comparison, say the same).

But unlike the judgment women often feel for their parenting or frenetic work/home-life juggle, dads, at least, cut each other some slack. A clear majority of fathers, 78 percent, report that they try not to judge other parents and maintain that what works for one family may not work for another. (In fact, 69 percent say parenting is mainly “about trusting your gut and following your instinct.”)

So although 44 percent of men still don’t believe they spend enough time with their kids, Iudica says that the guys “still think of themselves as ‘Dad, 2.0,’ more improved and more connected with their kids in every sense of the word.” When their child has a tough question, 93 percent of dads want to be the one to answer it.

“This 100-percent involvement is starting to spread them thin,” Iudica adds. “But they don’t want to give it up. For these men, it’s about being able to look back and say that they spent more time with their kids than their dad spent with them. It really is a struggle, but they’re constantly trying to work on it.”

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