Oh Momma, how far you’ve come. Millennial Moms are a generation of mothers unlike any ever seen before. Since the United States Department of Labor began tracking women in the workplace, labor force participation by mothers has grown by 30%. Today, over 70% of mothers work. And over 63% of mothers return to work within one year of the birth of their first child, an increase of 17% when these statistics were first measured.
Women's growing participation in the labor force has given rise to a breed of dads nearly unrecognizable from generations past. The archetype of Father Knows Best (wikipedia, or the authentic fan experience) has been put out to pasture. Millennial Dads are now taking on roles vastly different from their own fathers. With more Millennial Moms working, dads are more likely to handle pickup and dropoff at daycare, diapering, bedtime, and bathtime.
These dads are arguably the most engaged and involved generation of fathers America has ever seen. A study by BabyCenter shows that 70% of Millennial Dads make a point to be home for dinner as often as possible. And an astonishing 47% of dads would sacrifice a promotion at work if it meant they’d have less time to spend with family -- a position Adam LaRoche of the Chicago White Sox recently took when he walked away from a 13 million dollar contract when asked to limit the time his son spent in the clubhouse. And as more and more women become the primary breadwinner, it’s created the relatively new phenomenon of the stay-at-home dad. Their numbers have tripled in the last ten years.
This is a far cry from the Don Draper School of Neglectful Parenting seen by generations past. More and more fathers are seen as equal partners in parenting. Almost 26% of millennial moms feel they split parenting duties equally. And their kids reap the benefits. The American Psychological Association says:
Fatherly love helps children develop a sense of their place in the world, which helps their social, emotional and cognitive development and functioning. Moreover, children who receive more love from their fathers are less likely to struggle with behavioral or substance abuse problems.
A child with an involved father is more likely to graduate from college. Boys are genetically wired to mimic their fathers, and just by being present, involved dads teach their sons to express their emotions, handle their physical strength, and to respect others. While dads reduce behavioral problems in boys, data shows that they can also reduce psychological problems in daughters while having positive effects on cognitive development across gender lines.
The benefits aren’t just for the children. These Millennial Dads find that as their parental responsibilities increase, their priorities shift from internal and self-centered to external, relationship, and family-oriented. See the chart below, also courtesy of BabyCenter.
But there’s a flipside to the Millenial Superdad -- a pressure to be perfect that exceeds even what women put on themselves. 9 out of 10 dads say it’s important to be the “perfect dad,” compared to 8 out of 10 moms. Perhaps now that men are entering the territory that women have held for eons, they’re still learning what makes a perfect parent. Again, look at the study below from BabyCenter.
Perhaps we’re giving more credit where less is due -- do dads really deserve our praise for simply shouldering an equal load, and doing what moms have done since time immemorial? Maybe not. But when you consider how over the course of a single generation not only have we seen a radical shift in the numbers of working moms, but a shift in the definition of a “good father,” you must hand it to Millennial Dads. Not only have they adapted, they have done so with enthusiasm.
But at the end of the day, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While their responsibilities and duties may have shifted, there's one thing that millenial fathers do just as their fathers did and their fathers before them, down into the mists of time.
Have you seen the changes in what makes a good dad firsthand? Is there a Millenial SuperDad in your life? Give them a shout out in the comments.