Who says only millennial dads are involved fathers?


It is universally assumed that a millennial man with a young child must be a hands-on father.

Unlike the dads of old, young men are supposed to be more active fathers, more willing to take on the role of parenting than their fathers before them.

I use the word “young” on myself loosely, as at 34, I’m already close to a decade older than a significant number of my colleagues.

According to a Pew survey in 2011, 72 per cent of millennials believe that husbands should share household responsibilities – including parenting – with their wives.

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So millennial fathers are involved parents. They’re in the delivery room cutting the cord, they get up with mum when the baby needs to be fed and they change diapers in cramped aeroplane bathrooms and in the back seats of cars.

Having done all but one of the above, I hope I’m living up to these high standards.

However, this idea of millennial fathers being more active in parenting does a disservice to the fathers of the generations before mine and the work they put into raising their children.

There’s this popular notion that the fathers of yesteryear were concerned primarily with bringing home the bacon, leaving the hard work of bringing up children to overworked, exasperated mothers.

I don’t doubt that my mother, who juggled a career with raising two children, was overworked, as is my wife in balancing her responsibilities in raising our rambunctious three-year-old boy with the demands of her job in corporate communications.

As much as I may have loved Homer Simpson, television shows playing the stereotype for laughs have helped cement the idea in people’s heads of fathers being unwilling and unhelpful parents.

Related: Why fathers should bond with their children

It’s an unkind generalisation that demands re-examination. Becoming a father myself has helped me appreciate my dad much, much more.

I can’t remember if he changed my diapers or made my formula milk, but looking back, I think he did his fair share when I was growing up – never mind that I used to think that his jokes were lame and that he was out of touch.

After all, without my father, it’s unlikely that I would have my job at this newspaper. The fact that I am able to write any of this at all is due to him.

Next page: My dad persevered and taught me to read 

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