Updated: Jun 20, 2019
It’s Father’s Day and I’m getting ready to drive to my daughter’s house for a Father’s Day barbeque. Four of my favorite fathers will be toasted (and roasted) today: my son and son-in-law (the fathers of my five grandsons) and my daughter’s and son-in-law’s fathers, the GRANDfathers of their children.
These four fathers became fathers in different eras. The two grandfathers became parents at a time when the father was the breadwinner, and the mother was the caregiver. Not so for the two younger fathers, who became parents in the 21st century, when the roles of breadwinner and caregiver are commonly shared.
Fatherhood is changing. Consider these statistics reported by the Pew Research Center:
1. In 2013, the number of single father households had risen to more than 2.6 million since 1960, a nine-fold increase. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/07/02/the-rise-of-single-fathers/
2. In 2016, the number of stay at home dads had risen to 2.0 million, up from 1.1 million in 1989. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/12/fathers-day-facts/ft_16-06-14_fathersday_stayathomerising/
3. The results of a 2015 survey show that dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity (dads, 57%; moms, 56%) https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/12/fathers-day-facts/
4. In 2016, fathers reported spending, on average, eight hours a week on child care (about triple the time they provided back in 1965) and about 10 hours a week on household chores, up from four hours in 1965. By comparison, mothers spent an average of about 14 hours a week on child care and 18 hours a week on housework in 2016. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/12/fathers-day-facts/
Experts point to a number of factors that have impacted how fathers view their roles and responsibilities, among them the rise in two-income families, the high divorce rate, and changing family structures. Experts also recognize that what impacts fathers impacts grandparents. In 2005, 2.5 million children were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care. By 2015, that number had risen to 2.9 million (https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2016/11/02/why-more-grandparents-are-raising-children). And AARP reported that 38% of grandparents who completed its Grandparents Today survey babysit or provide daycare for their grandchildren, with one in 10 grandparents living in the same household with their grandchildren (https://www.aarp.org/.../surveys.../aarp-grandparenting-study.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00289... ).
Statistics tell us an important story about the changing nature of fatherhood. But the real stories take place at the individual family level, where some children are growing up without fathers. These children’s stories get little attention. Fortunately, some of these children do have have grandfathers in their lives. As we celebrate Father’s Day 2019, let’s celebrate too the grandfathers who are raising their grandchildren and providing them with a father’s love and guidance.