This Father’s Day, it is noticeable that in media and popular culture, the role of the father has continued to fall second to that of the role of the mother, even as more research shows the value of a father’s involvement in a child’s development.
Certainly, more women are burning out due to the burdens of work and home labor as a result of the pandemic, according to a Lean In 2020 study. Women are spending an average of 7.4 more hours per week on childcare and an additional 7 hours of on housework than men.
Not only are women on average working an additional 20 hours at home than their male counterparts, they are also working full-time jobs. The additional hours of work are taking an emotional and physical toll on women with over 52% of women experiencing sleep issues, 25% noticing racing heartbeat, compared to about a third of what men are experiencing.
Although some employers have offered flexibility for families, women have been the most impacted by the increase in demand of housework, childcare, and fallen victims of layoffs and furloughs. Since February of 2020, women have lost over 5.4 million net jobs, many having been forced out of the workplace due to having to choose to be a parent over their careers.
Much of the research and data coming out over the last year has primarily focused on the impact that the pandemic has had on women and children, but little has been said about the impact on fathers.
Often in everyday life, popular culture and media, the men’s role as a father is not taken into account—whether it is the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms, lack of paternal leave offered, or fathers labeled as babysitters rather than parents. All these narratives continue to invalidate the value of a father.
Although mothers and fathers may not reach gender equality in the home for generations ahead, it is important that we celebrate and honor fathers and continue to encourage their involvement in their child’s life.
I still remember vividly the moment in 2014 when I learned I was going to become a mom for the first time, as well as the agony I felt the moment I lost that baby. My husband was thrilled to know he was becoming a dad, but I know that he did not experience that first loss the same way I did.
My husband was away visiting his dad in the hospital as he battled for his life when he received the call that I was in the hospital losing our first baby. I cannot imagine the agony felt at that moment, having to decide whether to be with his mom, his father or to be with me. He ended up coming home the next day and helped me navigate the next few weeks and months, letting me know that although he did not experience the loss of our baby the same way I did, that he was suffering for me and the grief I was experiencing.
The second time I got pregnant in 2015, my husband became incredibly involved. He attended every appointment with my obstetrician/gynecologist before my son’s birth, then after he was born, he read to our baby, even doing National Geographic flashcards with our son.
He was involved in every step of my pregnancy, even so much so that he began to experience couvade. We joked that the minute I started to experience heartburn, he also began to have the same symptoms, when I broke out, he broke out.
I can attest to the effects my second and third pregnancy in 2017 had on my husband, the way he was physically impacted, as well as the way he transformed as a man into a father when our boys came into our life. My boys, now 5 and 3 years old, and every year since becoming a father in 2016 my husband continues to evolve as a father.
Not only is becoming a father transformative for a man—a 2019 study showed that a man’s neurological pathways change the more he is involved in caring for his child—but fatherhood also has a huge effect on a child’s development. The more a father is involved in a child’s life, the greater the positive impact a father will have on his child. The bond that my boys have formed with my husband is beautiful and unique.
As a father, he not only makes time for our children but dedicates quality time for them. He spends mornings with them teaching him about the world, patiently sharing with them all he knows when they have an endless amount of “why” questions. He plays with them, reads them books, speaks to them with love, and patiently listens to them.
Every decision we make as a couple takes into account the well-being of our children and every step he takes, he does it thinking of how it will impact our boys long-term. This has been especially true during the pandemic, when we became intentional about the time we spent with our children and the things we shared. In a recent study, data showed that a father’s positive involvement during the pandemic resulted in an increase of emotional wellbeing.
Research suggests that the benefits of a father’s involvement in a boy’s life are expansive. My husband not only gives himself wholeheartedly to our boys, but he also serves as an excellent role model in the way he approaches life, work, and in the way he treats others.
I know my family is lucky as millions of families have lost a father to illness and death; and millions more families have absent and uninvolved fathers. I know that even in families with both parents, being engaged and present as life happens is not always possible, for either the mother or father. I consider myself blessed to have my husband as my partner and father of my children.
As many get ready to celebrate Father’s Day, it is time to celebrate and understand the great impact that many men have on how they raise their children. Fathers are not only relationship partners, they are also partners in raising children and forming the next generation of men and women.
It is time to applaud the way so many fathers have continued to evolve and break barriers to be a part of children’s lives.
Karla Loya-Stack is a Latina Nonprofit Leader and former classroom teacher. She is a proud Mexican immigrant, mother of two boys, and a 2021 Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project.