Are Dads the New Moms?
When K.J. Wiemer got married in the 1990s, he didn’t think he was becoming a husband. Rather, he says, he saw himself as “one of two 20-something professionals living together, who were now entering the phase of ‘officially’ living together.” Once in their 30s, however, and with two children, Mr. Wiemer and his wife realized that their roles had to change. “We sat down and decided together that I, as a lawyer, was likely to make more money,” he says. “So I stayed working, and my wife stayed at home with the kids.”
But the new arrangement backfired. Mr. Wiemer says that he felt sheepish about asking his wife to “do something as antifeminist as doing the dishes or the laundry.” Even as he grew resentful of her and unsure of his own duties as a husband, his kids, he says, were his “total joy.” They remain so, though the couple divorced in 2001 with joint custody of their children, now 13 and 15. Mr. Wiemer has not remarried.
Among a growing number of today’s men with children, Mr. Wiemer’s story is not unusual: Adrift as they may be in their role as mates, they are proving themselves to be rock-solid fathers. Even a casual observer of American family life knows that dads now drive kids to more doctors’ appointments, preside over more homework assignments and chaperone more playdates. Research confirms the rise of co-parenting. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report found that 32% of fathers with working wives routinely care for their children under age 15, up from 26% in 2002. Popular culture has noted the trend, too. Involved regular-guy dads are now commonplace in commercials. In one AT&T ad, a dad diapers his baby while talking sports on his phone with a buddy.
Whether it is because today’s men were raised amid the women’s movement of the 1970s, or because they themselves experienced the costs of that era’s absent fathers, there is little question that the age of dads as full partners in parenting has arrived.