I have housework on the brain this morning. My husband is out of town and suddenly, I feel like my workload has doubled. Well, not really. But as I stand here bleary-eyed, waiting for that first sip of coffee to kick in, I'm alternating between entertaining our twin two-year-olds and cleaning up the crumbs and spills from breakfast. Alone. When I open the dryer and find a load of laundry to put away, the sad fact that I can't figure out how to fold the fitted sheets (yet again), makes me realize, I really am at a loss without my partner. I'm a work-at-home-mom with the luxury of a supportive husband who actually feels it is part of the deal to pitch in. So we really miss him - on a number of levels.
And while we appreciate everything he does, the cleaning, cooking and child care help is not such a novelty these days. The role of "dad" just isn't what it used to be anymore. The guys are doing much more of the heavy lifting around the house than most of our fathers did. More dads than ever are now taking care of everything from diaper duty to laundry to even staying home with the kids so we can pursue our careers. A study released earlier this month by the Center for Contemporary Families found that over the last 30 years in the US, men's participation in household tasks has doubled from 15 to 30% of the total and that the average full- or part-time employed married woman with children is doing two hours less housework than in 1965. Researchers also noted that between 1965 and 2003, men tripled the amount of time they spent taking care of children. Hallelujah!
New Jersey filmmaker Dana Glazer typifies a newly "evolved dad." He's a 37-year-old work-at-home father to two young sons. The birth of his sons and his decision to stay home with them in a 60-40 split with his interior designer wife spurred his mission to uncover how today's fathers define themselves and their responsibilities. What's changed since we were kids? And how has fatherhood transformed through the ages?
His documentary in progress, The Evolution of Dad, is about how men see themselves and how society perceives men in this new age of working mothers and more nurturing fathers. He plans to debut the film in theaters on Father's Day 2010. You can join him on the journey on YouTube:
"You're going to have grown men crying. It is going to dredge up issues about their relationships with their fathers. It really brings this stuff up. You don't realize how deep it goes," he says of his project.
The feature film probes this emotional subject through the eyes of men who've made a range of decisions to balance work and family, as well as digging into the latest research by sociologists and psychologists studying gender roles.
More than a year into filming, Glazer believes the movie will provide an opportunity to start a dialogue among men about their feelings around what it means to be a father, masculinity, the role of breadwinner and how fathers are dealing with the daily juggling act of personal and professional commitments.
"My challenge is how do you show someone going through the conflict of 'I love my kids and it kills me to have to go to work and I barely see them in the morning and I am suffering inside because of it, " explains the NYU Film School grad and freelance producer for the Sci-Fi channel and HBO.
He hopes fathers who spend too much time at work and agonize that they are missing out on their children's lives will be able to take away a message that, "There are creative solutions...if you can accept a paradigm shift in terms of how you balance your work," he told me in a recent interview.
It's a topic ripe for discussion among dads...and moms, especially amid the frightening news that the government now estimates it will cost middle income earners $204,060 feeding, housing and schooling a child born in 2007 until his or her 18th birthday. You read that right. That figure doesn't even account for college!! In an annual study, the USDA found that child care and education will represent a larger share of costs for raising a baby born today than in the past. That alone is something to consider as families negotiate how to divvy up the chores at home and how to manage work and their financial obligations. The good news is that thanks to the "evolution of dads," there may be many more opportunities for families to figure out new ways to retain balance and bring home the bacon.
Please check out my website, The Well Mom.com for insights and tips about motherhood and the pursuit of wellness.