A Modern Dad Manifesto


A Modern Dad Manifesto

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At least once a month, I’ll have the following interaction with another human being. I’ll be walking through the store (probably the grocery store) and have one or both kids in tow and a kind (usually 50+ year old person) will come up to me and comment how NICE it is that I’m giving Momma some time off and offer if I need any help.

A few things here. First, how dare you imply I don’t know how to navigate the grocery store! That’s my world! I know the aisles of all my local stores better than I know the actual streets surrounding my house.

Second, and the real crux here, is how much parenting has evolved in the last few decades. It’s absolutely true that for my parent’s generation, if my dad had both kids, he was probably giving my mom a “break” because it was implied that she was the childcare provider.

Of course, every family has their own ebb and flow, but most of the families I know with kids do not function in a Dad-works and Mom-cares mentality. Dad is also expected to do childcare and Mom is probably working!

To me, being a dad is so much more than just providing for my family and I really get the feeling that the role of the Dad has evolved in the last decade or so.

The Modern Dad Manifesto

I realize that I can’t speak for every parent out there, but when I think of what I’ve tried to focus on as a Dad, these are the points that stick out to me.

Maybe they will help other Dads out there!

The Modern Dad Must Grow a Parenting Connection

My kids are pretty attached to me. When we were on vacation, I tried to play a game of pickle ball with my step-dad and both kids sat on the other side of the fence and screamed the entire time. They were literally five feet away from me, but NOT CLOSE ENOUGH!

It’s hard to admit, but this connection to my kids wasn’t automatic. I worked at it. One thing that is simply biological is that Moms are more connected to kids than Dads out of the gate. It would be silly to deny this. By the time a Dad gets to meet his baby, the Mom has already been bonding with that baby for somewhere around 280 days! Plus, for many months after birth, Moms have much more on their plate with the kiddo than most Dads. That’s just how it goes.

Moms have their own challenges OBVIOUSLY, but Dads can sometimes feel useless and it’s important to find ways you can connect with your kid as soon as possible even if it seems a bit forced at times.

Here are some things I did early on to try to block off some good time with the kiddos.

  • Take over diaper changes. Probably not realistic to say you will do ALL the diaper changes, but volunteer to do most of them. Believe it or not, this is a time to bond with your kid.
  • Do chores with them. Yard work? House work? Strap them on with a carrier or let them follow along if they are older. Sure. It’ll slow you down, but they will be spending time with you alone.
  • Find a “thing”. Find a thing you do regularly and always make the kids a part of it. For me, this was grocery shopping. I always try to take at least one kid each weekend when I go. It absolutely makes grocery shopping harder, but it’s also great bonding time for us.

The Modern Dad Needs Other Dads

It has been SO important to me to have a group of dads with similar lifestyles and views regarding parenting. I have a pretty tight group of half a dozen or so dads that I talk to regularly about all things Dad.

We will meet for coffees, beers, or just chat via group texts. We plan trips with the kiddos to the zoo where we specifically say Dads only!

It’s a great way to share stories, advice, and build a network of helpers in case you need them.

do not think that you can do this step via an online forum, although you can do that too. I think you need physical other dads in your life that have similar aged children. I’ve learned so much from the other dads I talk to and I can’t imagine being a good dad today in a bubble.

The Modern Dad Motto is Simple

This is my modern Dad motto in one question: What Can I Do To Help? 

I don’t like to give specific advise on what sorts of things dads should contribute with around the house. Personally, I do all the cooking (obvs) and Betsy does laundry and other tidying up that I suck at. But that may not work for your family.

So ask! It’s a simple question but one that actually takes some humility to voice because implicit in the question is the concept that you probably don’t have a full picture of what’s going on!

I have to remind myself to do it and I’m usually surprised by the answer. Sometimes Betsy will have something on her mind that I wasn’t even aware of and by asking, I can take it on and take it off her plate.

By the way, moms can do this too obviously, but I think for some reason dads are less inclined to ask to add things to their chore list!

The Modern Dad Should Do It All

I really think that given the changing economics and cultural aspects of our world, the modern dad needs to be able to do it all so that the modern mom can also do it all. Most families I know these days, both parents work, and that means that both parents need to do everything else as well.

But, even if you are in a family where only one person works, I think the role of a dad in today’s world is changing. And that’s a very good thing.

We have work to do still, but let’s keep it up gentlemen.

(I love this photo because it seems like I really have it all together and both kids look relatively happy. Literally moments after this was taken, Theo got his leg stuck in the wheel of the stroller, almost broke it, and the scene devolved into chaos. GO ME.)

What’s Your Modern Dad Tip?

Do you have a tip for modern dads out there? I know most of my readers are female, so WHAT CAN WE DO? Leave a comment!

12 Responses to “A Modern Dad Manifesto” Leave a comment

  1. Well said Nick – I think your last point (Dad should do it all so that Moms can be given [deservedly so] the chance to do it all) is the most important one.
    One little thing I do is to make breakfast for my kids at least one morning on the weekend. And no, i’m not talking about pouring cereal in a bowl. I’m talking full on breakfast spread – pancakes, eggs, breakfast meat, potatoes, etc. In the beginning it really gave the kids something to look forward to doing with me.
    Anyway, love the site as always. Keep up the good work/awesome recipes/insightful posts

  2. My suggestion: Remove “to help” from your motto :) I love that you love being a dad (and that you do it so well!) but “help”, to me, implies that it’s still someone else’s job to do the thing or things and/or to delegate them to you. Of course, you’re right in that you won’t know what you’re not being told unless and until you ask, but as far as kiddo/family/household things are concerned, sometimes you can just take a careful look at what’s going on and see what needs doing. (Disclaimer: my husband is very good at selectively ignoring dishes in and around the sink – clean and dirty – and messes that he didn’t make, so that’s my personal slant!)

    That said, my husband walks our son to get an iced coffee on Saturday mornings while I’m out – sometimes the kiddo gets to share Dad’s donut :)

  3. Great post, Nick! Unfortunately, when both my daughters were born, I was on active duty with the US Army, so I didn’t have the chance to bond with them as I would have liked to. My oldest daughter was born at Walter Reed, in the DC area during the “Mayday Demonstrations” in DC, May, 1970. I was downtown heading up the alert force for the Military District of Washington and couldn’t get away to even get them out of the hospital and bring them home. My youngest daughter was born in what was then the Canal Zone, also during a tumultuous time. Panama, at that time, was a military dictatorship, and the police force there was, in actuality, the National Guard. The Canal Zone was only ten miles wide, and everyday life changed dramatically when one crossed into Panama. Not making excuses, and I wouldn’t change anything, but it was still a PITA, and I am not talking about the “Greek Taco”! ;)

    After making a short story long, I commend you for spending quality time with your kids! I’m pretty certain you would agree with me that probably the most important section in the grocery store is the restroom, especially when you have children with you! I’m pretty certain you are just like me. Seldom do I ever get out of the store in less than an hour, and it can even extend to 2 hours or more on many occasions! I go with a list, but always peruse the other aisles for “deals”. I also pause to read the labels, and calculate the “per ounce” cost, to find out which is the best buy. To sum it up, I spend a lot of time in the store, but what the “hey”? I’m retired from the Army now, and time is on my side! I also have to state that my daughters both love my cooking, as do their children, so I guess I have made up a little bit of lost time. Here’s to you for taking advantage of all the time you have with your children. You’ll never regret it! Larry

    1. Hey Larry, Amazing story and thanks so much for the reminder how much service members sacrifice. Thanks for you all did and do!

  4. Totally agree and my husband is a complete 50/50 partner in parenting like it seems you are. I definitely believe the role of father has changed a lot in recent years, as has the role of mother, and it’s probably a good thing! There are obviously certain things that only one parent can do, but it’s nice for both parents to contribute equally overall.

  5. I agree with you in so many points. I think is not fair expect that dads loves their childs right away. I feel like it’s a double edged sword for moms, because they must carry a baby inside their body. I don’t mean that it is bad, but it’s complicated and a big change in life.
    You did very weel trying to connect and take carry of them right away.
    That group of Dads is really great! Probably not just for you, but also for all the kids, because that is a good place to build friends. You will be already close to the family of your child’s friends and know them better.
    I don’t have nothing to add for you about the modern dad, I think you are doing weel. While you connect with them, share duties that will work. =)

  6. This is so great! I was just working with a client (I’m a marriage/family coach) who’s husband is really struggling with figuring out his role in the family – as his wife is building up her own business and loving it, he’s grappling with his traditional concept of what role the “man of the house” has. In our home, we travel the states full time in our RV. I run my marriage/family coaching business online and can coach from anywhere virtually, and my husband Nathan handles all the logistics of finding us campsites, charting our path, and cooking all our meals. He is an INCREDIBLE chef and we’ve found it is his artistic voice and he loves experimenting with new vegan dishes for us to have (makes a killer smoked jackfruit vegan Hawaiian pizza!)
    I completely agree that both parents need to understand and know all the roles of family. It is a full time job to be a parent. It’s a full time job to run a household and handle logistics. And then there are those jobs that bring in income. I think that’s the biggest thing – keep in mind that a job does not always pay monetarily – it’s in the investments in relationships, the process of intentionally living life – it’s more than simply about the dollar signs.
    I wrote a post called “If you want daddy to be involved…get out of the way” – so often us mothers have trust issues with our partners being competent enough to watch their child like they can. A dad is not a baby-sitter or second-fiddle mom. They are DADS. They have their own role and their own relationship with their kids. And we can sabotage that when we just assume they need to do things as we do. I love that you suggest doing things alone with your kids – they need to establish a relationship with their father that is different than that of their mother – and it’s a beautiful thing when they are free to create that unique relationship that adds so much to the family. Rock on- I’ll definitely be sharing this post. :-)

  7. While asking “what can I do?” is a good start, most women bear the brunt of “the third shift.” This is the mental work it takes to know and remember everything that is going on in a family; what everyone needs and when; and to have a plan for getting it done. It is much better to be able to delegate some of it to another person than to do it all on your own but a real 50/50 partnership would have both people involved in the mental tasks of running a household. You may very well be doing this but, in my opinion, the way you’ve phrased the advice as asking for chores reinforces the problem.

  8. Wow. What Tracy said, totally. Here it is a year later, and I’ve thought abou this post several times since reading it. I let it go back when I first read it, because I assumed you meant well. But I read an article today and thought – Nick needs to read this. https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/the-cost-of-misusing-the-term-emotional-labor

    If your motto is “how can i help you,” then you are implying that it’s not your job to know what needs to be done, so Betsy is still carrying the full mental load.

    Nick, you seem super awesome and involved and evolved. So, I am sure you meant well. I challenge you to reconsider this post. Instead of asking your partner “how can I help you?” why you don’t you instead ask your self “how can I take over half of the load?” You already have the spark of this in your “find a thing” idea. But, why one thing? Let’s guess there are about 40 “things” to manage. Why not take 20 and own them as your own responsibility, and carry the mental load for them?

    Then if one of you ever is having a rough time carrying your load, one of you can say to the other – “how can i help you?” and it will truly have the evolved meaning I think you intended.

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