On a recent Sunday afternoon just before the crack of spring, I came home to find my husband and seven-year-old son busy cleaning their fishing tackle boxes with a toothbrush, sorting lures into the various compartments according to type, size and perceived effectiveness, and discussing the distinctions between bass and trout lures.
The moment filled me with secret joy. Besides being a scene so stereotypical that it could have been ripped from a Father’s Day card, my real happiness stemmed from the fact that the activity had nothing to do with me. No preplanning. No hints dropped. No arranging or scheduling. No being asked to find something in the attic because no one else knows where it’s kept.
In households with two opposite-gender parents, moms still carry what’s being called “the mental load” — that endless task list of all the minutiae that make a family and a home operate smoothly. According to the 2017 Modern Family Index, working moms in the United States are twice as likely as working dads to make sure all family responsibilities are handled, and three times more likely to keep track of their children’s schedules. That means mothers are what the survey calls the “unofficial keepers of where the entire family needs to be and when, and perpetual guardians against anything falling through the cracks.”
But the Index also tells us dads are yearning for change. Working fathers were 32 percent more likely than working mothers to say they’d take a pay cut in order to spend more time with their kids. Nearly half of dads said they were burning out due to lack of family time. Clearly, both moms and dads have a long way to go to achieve that elusive work-life balance, as well as equality between partners.
In this issue, you’ll encounter several dads. Our cover story is by Mark Mann, a new father who’s grappling with what it means to have a child in the era of climate change. In “Father Figures”, we highlight the changing roles of dads across the country. And our culture essay is on Finding Father, a collection of essays by Mennonite daughters about their dads.
Fatherhood is evolving rapidly, and being a dad in the 21st century might be more mentally, emotionally and even ethically challenging than ever. I can’t speak for dads. But as a mom, I can tell you that parenting my son has been the greatest joy of my life. And watching my husband as a father is a very close second.
This editorial first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Broadview with the title “Changing roles.” For more of Broadview‘s award-winning content, subscribe to the magazine today.