Father-children relationship has for a long time been restricted by the image of men attending to more “manly” occupations than spending time with their kids. Raising children was considered a woman’s main task, just like house cleaning or cooking in which men were supposed to play only a marginal role. On the contrary, pursuing ambitious careers was men’s assignment. The past century saw a dramatic shift in these rigid gender roles. More and more women enter careers that were previously considered men’s realm, and more fathers realize that spending time with their children is an enjoyable and meaningful pastime.
Men are discovering that why women are so taken with the challenging task of children’s upbringing. To both parents, this is a serious investment in their children’s future, as well as an opportunity to share their ideas about life. Men who were typically expected to care for the child already after they begin to look and act more rational now begin to take active part in their children’s lives from early on. At ANZ bank, for example, there were no men willing to take a parental leave in 1993. In 1996, 12 turned up with such requests, and then their number rose to 23 in 2002 (Nixon & Pryor 2002). The organisation had to replace its “working mothers’ group” to “working parents’ group” because the meetings were attended by fathers as well as mothers.
A change in career progression and proliferation of freelance jobs and telecommuting may contribute to men’s desire to spend time with their kids. Possibility to combine a career with parental involvement without leaving the workforce opens to men more options. As society and employers adjust to the change happening in families, they may open more venues for men to combine their professional and parental duties. In Fairfax, Paul McEvoy, 37, lost his job as a result of the lay-off and decided to engage in freelance writing as a way to make his living (Nixon & Pryor 2002). When his son Jarrah was born, he naturally “assumed the role of primary carer” while his partner Katy was pursuing her full-time job (Nixon & Pryor 2002). Such arrangements leave families more choices, in fact leaving them better off since now they may decide on which partner is going to make a career, and who will stay with the kids.
The increase in fathers’ attention to kids is a positive influence for their upbringing, be it boys or girls. Children will have more chances to experience men’s world, full of interests and pursuits different from that of their mothers. Lack of attention on the part of fathers earlier observed in many families created a situation in which children in complete families, much like their peers in broken homes, were receiving a one-sided education with the main input coming from their mothers. With a rise in fathers’ involvement, children’s outlook can develop in a more accurate and broader fashion.
Increase in the importance of the father’s role is a natural result of shifting gender roles and expectations. To the family, this change has many positive implications, facilitating women’s lives, adding to children’s harmonious upbringing, and enriching men’s lives through new rewarding activities. Over the long range, society as a whole can be expected to accommodate this change, providing more incentives for men to take time to care for their kids. Adjusting to the change on the organisational, community, and nation-wide level, society will help spearhead a very positive development in the evolution of the modern family.
Nixon, Sherrill and Lisa Pryor. “Working fathers rise to the challenge of raising kids.” Fairfax Digital 30 September 2002. 21 Mar. 06 <http://smh.com.au/articles/2002/09/29/1033283388272.html>.
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