Everyone remembers watching re-runs of Leave it to Beaver growing up where Ward Cleaver would come home after work, put his brief case down and sit down on the comfy chair to read the newspaper while Wally and the Beaver played outside and June baked cookies in the kitchen. For a long time, Ward Cleaver was the epitome of a good father. He worked hard, he was nice to his wife and kids and had pearls of wisdom that helped solve problems when they came up.
Nowadays, men who try to emulate Ward Cleaver would be considered lazy, overly-privileged and would get a lot of complaints from his wife. Fatherhood has come a long way in the last half century. The problem is that a lot of fathers have a hard time keeping up with the changes in expectations. Especially in an era rife with political correctness and gender equality. What characterizes a modern dad?
A modern dad is involved with his children
Fatherhood means more than just a biological relationship with your offspring. Fathers know their children and know what challenges they're facing. They also know who his daughter's latest crush is, what TV shows and teachers their kids like and who their closest friends are. Modern dads also interact daily with their children on a personal level. They continue conversations with their children that were started yesterday without missing a beat.
A modern dad is a partner with his wife
Gone are the days where Ward Cleaver comes home and sits on the comfy chair while June bakes cookies. Modern dads help make dinner, help kids with homework, help change diapers and help put the kids to bed. Modern dads are active participants in all the things wives used to be solely responsible for. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have discovered that most couples still divide the household chores mostly along gender-typical lines but modern dads participate much more around the house. They are involved enough at home and with their children that they have no difficulty anticipating a need and meeting it without having to be prompted by their wives to do so.
A modern dad does not make all the decisions
Because the division of chores and responsibilities overlap so much between men and women, modern dads are no longer as responsible as they once were to make so many decisions around the house. They're not the ones who have to decide what plumber to get or what mechanic to go to. They divide these tasks with their wives and each spouse trusts the other's judgement in all decisions.
A modern dad is independent
There was a time when dads seemed to be unable to wash their own clothes or cook their own meals. Modern dads not only know how to wash their own clothes, but know how to wash the whole family's clothes. They also know how to cook for the whole family, what day and time ballet class is and how to fit it all in with a full- time work schedule. They don't rely on a wife as much as they used to. They can keep the family running by themselves if they needed to, but they're thankful to have a wife who helps and happily shares responsibilities with them.
Being a father in this day and age is tough. We're constantly overloaded with contradictory messages of fatherhood ranging anywhere from Ward Cleaver to Homer Simpson to absent fathers. The media often makes modern dads out to be dumb, incompetent and lazy and yet at the same time fathers are expected to solve problems, know how to fix everything and be Prince Charming's to their wives. Modern dads challenge the Homer Simpson, Ward Cleaver and Prince Charming stereotypes and show exactly how competent, smart, involved and loving modern dads really are.