By Gary Barker
When Mark Zuckerberg takes paternity leave, the world takes note. While we applaud his ability to “lean out,” we don’t generally talk about the support that a father – or any parent – needs to do it (and just how many don’t have it).
In our country, fathers are taking on more childcare and domestic work than ever before. In fact, they’ve increased their time spent with children during the work day by 65% over the past 30 years, and half of partnered American fathers self-identify as their children’s primary caregiver or say they share that responsibility equally with their partners. The number of stay-at-home dads has increased from just a handful in the 1970s, to nearly two million today. This is a promising step towards gender equality for our country – with benefits for children, society and the national economy.
And it’s not just the Mark Zuckerbergs who are stepping up. Despite the simplistic assumption that nonresident fathers are absent fathers – or worse, “deadbeat dads” – research also shows that most nonresident fathers are consistently very active in the lives of their children. This is important to know, as 50% of children will spend some portion of their childhood years living in single-parent households.
Not only are fathers spending more time with their children than ever before, but we know they want to do even more. The majority of parents (62%) who work from 35 to 40 hours a week, and nearly three quarters (73%) of those who work over 40 hours a week (at all jobs) feel that they do not spend enough time with their children. But they can’t devote this time without support.
Picture: Balatonigocsi (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons