Men’s attitudes towards everything from work and education to marriage and raising children have been changing over time. What’s driving these changes in attitude? Are men approaching fatherhood differently than previous generations did? How should businesses market to these new dads?
To answer these and other questions, we turn to Kevin Osborn, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Fatherhood” — as well as “The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Bringing Up Baby,” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Parenting a Preschooler and Toddler.”
A father of four — currently ages 25, 23, 21, and 16 — Kevin has been a stay-at-home dad for decades. Clearly, this man has experience on many levels with this topic.
Kevin is also the head futurist for Future in Focus and has written extensively on consumer, technology, and business trends throughout the world, including topics about Millennials as parents, new American grandparents, and stay-at-home dads.
Scroll down for the Q&A between Osborn and Michael Vidikan, president of Future in Focus, on the Four Futurist Forecasts on The Future of Fatherhood:
- Millennial Dads — what they want, what they need, what they expect
- Technology and Dads — how they are helping kids get connected, and be smarter
- Stay-at-home Dads — why it’s all about respect
- Grandparents of the Future — why they are happy to spend a fortune on their grandkids
Michael Vidikan: Kevin, so glad we have you here today to talk about the Future of Fatherhood and Happy Father’s Day to you. Let’s jump into the topic. Men’s attitudes and behaviors have been changing over time. Can you talk about some of the drivers behind these changes?
Kevin Osborn: There are several factors behind the changes in how men approach the world. One of the strongest factors is economic — the Great Recession and its lingering aftereffects have dramatically transformed men’s attitudes toward both work and family. As a group, men experienced far more devastating effects from the recession than women. Partly as a result, men are no longer embracing — or in many cases, are unable to achieve — the traditional but now passé role of family breadwinner.
In addition, the recession prompted many mothers to either work more than they had or more than they wanted to. Today, about half of all moms in the United States do work full time and nearly 40 percent of working wives in the country are now their household’s primary breadwinner, including an all-time high of 7 percent who are their family’s sole breadwinner. The jump in working mothers has dramatically transformed the responsibilities of fathers, whether working or not.
Michael Vidikan: That’s quite a reversal. What are some of the social factors at play here?
Kevin Osborn: In terms of social forces, the biggest factor is changes to gender roles. In some ways, this overlaps with the economic changes. In 60 percent of two-parent households with kids under age 18 in the United States, for example, both parents now work. Mothers, including mothers of very young children, are working and/or returning to work much more often than older generations of mothers. Today’s moms, for instance, spend two-and-a-half times as many hours doing paid work as moms did 50 years ago. Partly as a result of this, and even more so as a result of changing attitudes regarding gender responsibilities, men are doing an increasingly larger share of household duties.
Michael Vidikan: So as women are earning as much or more than men, men are increasing their share of household work. Is that true of parenting as well?
Kevin Osborn: Actually yes. From a cultural standpoint, attitudes about parenting are changing, too. Today’s parents — and especially today’s dads — place a very high priority on being actively involved in their children’s lives. Society is much more accepting of fathers who are very involved in their parenting roles. And most fathers want to take a bigger role in childrearing. The Pew Research Center found that US dads were twice as likely as US moms (46% to 23%) to say they don’t spend enough time with their kids.
Parental roles are converging much more today than they have for previous generations of parents. On the part of dads, this means that today’s fathers are spending more time on both childcare and housework than yesterday’s fathers did. In fact, Pew found that today’s dads spend fewer hours on paid work than their fathers and grandfathers did — but spend about two-and-a-half times as many hours on both childcare and housework as fathers did 50 years ago. This doesn’t mean fathers are taking over for mothers. In fact, despite these dramatic changes, mothers today still devote more hours to home and children than fathers — but the gap is narrowing considerably.
Michael Vidikan: It sounds like each progressive generation of men is adopting a different set of values. There are theories that each generation has its own unique set of values and attitudes. Is that what you’re seeing with the Millennial generation?
Kevin Osborn: Certainly, the role of fatherhood evolves with each passing generation, because every new generation of fathers brings new attitudes and approaches based on their own circumstances. Chief among them is the way they themselves were raised — that is, the parenting style of the previous generations of fathers (and mothers, too) — but also the state of the national and global economy at the time when they become adults and when they have children, and the evolution of the role of mothers in their generation.
Many Millennials delayed parenthood until later in their life than earlier generations did. Delayed gratification often makes people value an experience even more when it finally arrives. And that’s the case with Millennial dads. After putting it off for so many years, many are treasuring and savoring fatherhood. A Pew survey found that 52 percent of Millennials regard being a good parent as one of the most important things in life — nearly twice the 30 percent who said the same about marriage. About one-fourth of Millennials — who could soon become the largest parenting generation in US history — are already parents. That’s about 10 million Millennial dads, with another 30 million who could soon join them in fathering in coming decades.
Michael Vidikan: Does what we spoke of earlier — more childcare and hands-on parental responsibilities for today’s fathers — characterize the new Millennial dads?
Kevin Osborn: Yes. Those living in two-parent households have developed more of a parenting partnership than the gender-based division of responsibilities of earlier generations, even those of the Gen X parents who immediately preceded them. Parenting responsibilities are divided more evenly, although are not yet 50/50 for most parents. Men spend about three times as many hours with their kids as fathers did 50 years ago.
Although they still average nearly an hour less a day with their kids than Millennial moms do, today’s young dads are very involved in childcare: They get up in the middle of the night; they change diapers regularly — 80 percent of men say they do so more often than their wives — although most wives would disagree; they feed babies bottles; they go to school parent meetings; they do shopping and laundry. In fact, shopping may actually be one of the most evenly shared activities among Millennial couples — with 95 percent of Millennial dads saying they do some grocery shopping.
Just 42 percent of men today believe that men and women should subscribe to traditional parenting roles (down from 74 percent of men who believed this in 1977). Millennial men really enjoy being fathers: 82 percent say that raising children brings them a lot of happiness (although at the same time, 36 percent say they would go nuts if they had to stay home with their kids every day).
Digital influences also play a huge role in the way they parent — and even the way they see parenting. These Millennial dads grew up and came of age with digital technologies. And as parents, they maintain the same connectivity — through digital technologies, social networking, and the like — that they have always had.