With an estimated 70.1 million fathers in the United States,
there will be hundreds of millions of children of all ages
celebrating their Dads this Sunday, June 17.
The celebration dates back to June 19, 1910 when the first
Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane, Wa., after Sonora Dodd
convinced the mayor that fathers such as hers, a widowed farmer who
raised his six children, deserved their own day of recognition.
Dodd's dad was unique, especially for his time. Throughout the
early 20th century, a father's primary job was to "bring home the
bacon." Childrearing was left almost exclusively to mothers.
That has changed dramatically since 1910 - perhaps most
noticeably in the last 30 years.
Today, as many more women have joined the workforce, men have
become increasingly involved in all aspects of family life; fathers
read to their kids, pick them up from school or camps, take them to
play-dates and help with school work, more than ever before.
Since 1965, men have tripled the amount of time they spend with
their children, reports Suzanne Bianchi, John Robinson and Melissa
Milkie in their book, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life.
Research shows that men now spend, on average, 6.5 hours a week (26
hour a month) caring for their children and this trend has had a
positive effect on children's development.
Kids who spend time with their fathers regularly and are the
"primary focus" of their father's time (at least for a portion of
those hours), exhibit more confidence, self-worth, social, academic
and athletic successes and overall happiness, they found.
However, despite those exciting trends, fatherhood rights still
face many challenges. Perhaps this is most evident in divorce
courts where men are still cast as breadwinners first and
With divorce rates hovering at just under 50 percent, nearly
half of all fathers have had to fight for custody while shouldering
disproportionate levels of child support. According to the U.S.
Census Bureau, 43 percent of children in America live without their
Fathers are not treated as equals when it comes to parenting,
despite laws requiring equality. "... the rights of the parents
shall, in the absence of misconduct, be held to be equal, and the
happiness and welfare of the children shall determine their
custody," states Massachusetts General Law chapter 208, section
However, 'happiness and welfare of the children' "gets
translated operationally by the courts as the wishes of the mom,"
said Mark Charalambous, spokesman for the Fatherhood Coalition,
calling it an "amorphous standard that is bent and twisted.'"
Charalambous continues, saying "unless and until there is...
wholesale destruction of the father-child relationship via
extortionary child support orders, the harm to fathers, children,
and society at large will continue unabated."
His statements are strong and a bit rash, but he has a
Even today, as parenting roles blend, most fathers come out of a
divorce with increased financial burdens and limited time with
children. The average child support payment is around 20-30 percent
of the non-custodial parent's gross income for two children in a
middle class family (a variety of factors determine this amount.)
Needless to say, many fathers struggle to keep up-and it's not just
the "deadbeats dads" that sometimes can't make ends meet. This
struggle causes guilt and shame, if not anger and resentment, and
those sentiments, intended or not, seep into the family and are
reflected in a myriad of ways.
On this Father's Day, as we recognize our dads and appreciate
our relationship with them, also take a moment to recognize the
value of strong father-child relationships in the modern family and
in society at large.
"It is not the quantity of time that fathers spend with their
children, but the quality of the relationship that counts," the
Council for Contemporary Families reminds us. So carve out some
quality time, this year, and be grateful for all their efforts -
and those who are trying their best under difficult
While family circumstances differ drastically, the value of
fatherhood (in addition to motherhood) should remain central - both
in our private families and in our public policies.