Changing Role of the Modern Day Dad

by Marty Marko

When Barack Obama created his own personal Twitter account, he was asked why ‘Dad’ picture1was listed first, since many celebrities and politicians choose to highlight their professional accomplishments.

He smiled and replied, “My roles are listed in order of importance.”

It was the perfect response for a modern-day dad.

Modern families come in many shapes and sizes. When it comes to dad, he may not be the traditional married breadwinner and disciplinarian of the past. Dads are single or married, employed or unemployed, stay-at home, gay or straight, an adoptive or step-parent, and usually a more than capable caregiver.

Historically, the role of the father was to serve as financial provider, conveyer of moral values and religious education to their children.

Then with the advent of industrialization and factories emerging as major sources of employment, fathers became distanced from the household and their families. They were often shadowy figures who disappeared at dawn and returned at dusk. You might remember hearing, “Just wait until your father gets home.”

In more recent decades, the changing economic role of women has greatly impacted the role of fathers. Between 1948 and 2001, the percentage of working-age women employed or looking for work nearly doubled, to more than 60 per cent from less than 33 per cent.

In tandem with the growing autonomy of women, related trends such as declining fertility, increasing rates of divorce and remarriage, and childbirth outside of marriage have resulted in a transition. These ‘traditional’ roles are being replaced by an expectation for modern dads to be more involved with the lives of their children.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, of course, but it generally involves a combination of engagement (through direct interaction), accessibility (being available) and responsibility (providing resources and guidance to help their children thrive).

Research across families from all ethnic backgrounds suggests dads who are actively engaged with their families help to promote their children’s social and emotional development.

Many modern dads actively participate in parenting, from attending prenatal classes to coaching during childbirth, to parental leave or simply being more involved and nurturing on a day-to-day basis.

Research across families from all ethnic backgrounds suggests dads who are actively engaged with their families help to promote their children’s social and emotional development. So the trend toward more involved, caring dads is certainly a positive one, even though some still struggle to balance modern expectations with other societal and self-imposed pressures.

Experts believe the best approach a modern dad can take is to listen without judgment, and share without pushing.

Be empathetic and love your family. Help them understand that even though you don’t know everything, you will always do your best; that you will be honest, reliable and on their side, unconditionally, no matter what.

In short, lead by example. Be the kind of dad you want your children to be, or be with. A dad may be just an ordinary man, but he is also his child’s hero and role model.

On a personal note, I am about to become a dad for the first time in 2017, and I look forward to updating my Twitter account accordingly.


— Marty Mako is a health promoter with Niagara Region Public Health, and volunteers locally with United Way’s Gennext cabinet, YMCA of Niagara, Out of the Cold, Lincoln County Humane Society and the City of St. Catharines Heritage Advisory Committee.  He is also a member of Dad Central Niagara and the Community of Father Involvement Practice hosted by Dad Central Ontario.



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