This Father's Day, families will honor and celebrate all kinds of dads.
They will salute dads who work long hours in high-profile jobs and dads whose primary job is raising the kids; dads who coach their children's soccer teams, sometimes still in their ties and shiny shoes, and dads who don't mind cleaning the bathroom; dads who make eggs on Saturday mornings or are good at fixing things or never seem to get tired of playing games; dads who braid their daughters' hair.
These are just a few of the dads I know. In today's world, the list of dad skills, attributes and responsibilities is as varied as the ever-changing role of the American father.
Much has been made of the differences between men and women, and I find the Venus-Mars theory particularly interesting as it relates to parenting. How much of our gender and parenting roles are learned, from what our families and culture and society teach us and expect of us, and how much of this is influenced by our genes? Are women, on average, inherently better at comforting and nurturing? Are more men than women hard-wired to be good problem-solvers and fixers?
Researchers at the University of California-Davis may find the answers as they look for insights into the biology of human behavior by studying monkey families.
In a research colony of titi monkeys, a South American species known for being monogamous, the males are more nurturing than the females. The fathers carry the baby monkeys around and comfort them when they cry. The mothers reject their babies, except at feeding time.
In American families, meanwhile, the roles of moms and dads continue to evolve. It's hard to say what is "typical" or "traditional" anymore. The notion of men as the breadwinners and women as the nurturers still exists, and for some families, those roles are a good fit. For others, the roles are reversed _ or taken apart and pieced back together in new job descriptions that defy gender stereotypes.
In a growing number of families, women earn more than men. According to the Census Bureau, 25.3 percent of women in two-income marriages bring home the bigger paycheck, up from 17.8 percent in 1987. On average, men still earn more than women, but the pay gap is shrinking: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earned 81 cents for every dollar a man made in 2005, up from 66.6 cents in 1983.
Parenting roles are more mixed than ever. Today's dads are doing things their fathers may not have done: changing diapers, leaving work to take the kids to dance lessons, accompanying preschoolers to birthday parties. With more women working as doctors and lawyers and executives, dads are doing some of the juggling once reserved for supermoms: the day-care and school pickups and drop-offs, the errands, the cooking, the chores.
Parents today have the opportunity to be truly equal partners in the difficult and rewarding job of raising children. They have the freedom and flexibility to do what they enjoy and what they're good at, even if it's different from what their parents enjoyed or were good at.
Of course, this freedom also creates new challenges. It's more difficult to negotiate who will do what when every job is up for grabs. It's harder to balance the child care and household workloads when both parents also have other full-time jobs. And how do you divvy up the responsibilities when neither parent is good at balancing the checkbook and both parents hate cleaning the tub?
These are challenges each family will address, in whatever way works best for them. The role-swapping and job-sharing will increase as more women break through the so-called "glass ceiling" and society becomes even more accepting of men as caregivers.
And who knows? Someday, those monkey researchers may find out that our X and Y chromosomes are, indeed, responsible for some of our strengths and weaknesses.
If that's the case, let's hope they'll also discover antidotes for shopaholic wives and husbands who leave their dirty laundry on the floor.
Lisa Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Oneonta. She can be reached at email@example.com.
This Father's Day, families will honor and celebrate all kinds of dads.
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.
Being a parent is a constant learning process
I am sitting cross-legged on the floor in the dressing room, waiting for Allie's dance number to be called. The cave girl costume has been donned, the jazz shoes double-tied, the hair pulled back, the requisite dab of lipstick applied.
Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
Half of Americans will be obese by 2030 if current trends continue, according to a report released last week in the British medical journal The Lancet.
A family era ends with close of Potter series
As Harry Potter fans the world over flock to theaters for the final screenings of the final film in the eight-part series, I'm marking the end of an era myself, reading the last pages of the last book to my last child.
Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
For many small communities, the Borders store at the nearest mall was the only place to browse and buy a variety of books, beyond the few titles offered in Walmart bestseller and bargain racks.
- Saturday, July 2, 2011
Untethered from the cable box
I never imagined it would be so easy to be cable-free.
- Saturday, June 11, 2011
On cells, sprouts and sodas
It figures. Six weeks after we dropped our landline, the World Health Organization issued a warning that radiation from cell phones might cause brain cancer. Meanwhile, the ultimate health food, organic bean sprouts, is being blamed for one of the deadliest E. coli outbreaks in recent history.
- Saturday, May 21, 2011
End of the world as we know it? I feel fine
If you're reading this article after 6 p.m. and the ground is not shaking beneath your feet, then Harold Camping was wrong. Again.
- Sunday, May 1, 2011
Song lyrics are an odd measure of attitudes
It was the third rainy weekend in a row, and I was scrolling through comments to a post by MSNBC blogger Melissa Dahl about a new study linking song lyrics to cultural changes.
- Saturday, April 9, 2011
Parenting adventure takes a turn
On Friday, my 13-year-old daughter, Abby, will embark on the biggest adventure of her life.
- Saturday, March 19, 2011
Japan devastation: Powerful reminder of our limitations
The images were surreal. People screaming from higher ground as they watched the relentless wave of brown water sweep up houses and topple power lines. Cars and boats floating like bath toys. Aerial photos of flattened villages, with crumpled roofs jutting out of the debris-laden landscape and orange-suited rescue workers like ants on a mountain of twigs.
- Saturday, February 26, 2011
As food prices rise, sustainability makes more business sense
Frustration with high food prices is among the underlying causes of the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and a global food crisis may be brewing.
- Tuesday, February 8, 2011
National agenda needed to advance green technology
In his State of the Union address, President Obama issued a call to action for Americans to "out-innovate" the rest of the world and build on our history of doing "big things." Green technology is the next big thing, and it's our best hope to reinvent ourselves as competitors in the global economy. But we won't get there without a comprehensive national agenda supported by all parties -- political, yes, but also businesses, consumers, educators and students.
- Saturday, January 15, 2011
Shootings remind us of need to teach children to hope
They should have been chattering about spelling tests and Hannah Montana songs. But instead, the two second-graders in my backseat were talking about the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. They had heard about it at school and were commiserating over the "sad" and "creepy" news as we drove home for a play date.
- Friday, December 3, 2010
Marketing tactics could get kids to eat healthy foods
In a new twist on the "Super Size Me" fast-food diet experiment, the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission ate nothing but spuds for 60 days.
- Saturday, November 13, 2010
'Oneonta 360' captures essence of our area
The fact that Oneonta's new branding campaign has generated so much controversy shows how passionately people feel about this place. One thing everyone might agree on is that the essence of Oneonta cannot be easily conveyed in a few words or a logo. However, photographer Stephen Joseph makes a fascinating attempt to capture it in his new book, "Oneonta 360." If you haven't seen it yet, stop by Huntington Library, where one two-page spread is on display each day.
- Saturday, October 23, 2010
Stem cell research must move forward
Robert Edwards of Britain received the Nobel Prize in medicine earlier this month for research that led to the birth of the first "test-tube baby" in 1978. Hugely controversial 32 years ago, Edwards' work is now lauded as a medical breakthrough that has brought immeasurable joy to the families of the 4 million babies born through in vitro fertilization.
- Saturday, October 2, 2010
Supersized salmon? No thanks
Davenport Garden Center owner Dennis Valente drizzled maple syrup over sweet potatoes in the cafeteria kitchen while a group of sixth-graders topped pizza crusts with pesto they'd made using basil from their school garden.
- Saturday, September 11, 2010
Chobani yogurt: Nothing but good for the area
I'm in love with Chobani. True to its marketing slogan, this locally made, Greek-style yogurt is, indeed, "nothing but good." First of all, it's delicious: thick, creamy, fruity and sweet (but not too sweet).
- Saturday, August 21, 2010
Summer is a perfect time to unplug
Last month, I wrote about the rewards of disconnecting from information technology during a weeklong family camping trip. Since then, I've picked blueberries, skipped rocks, curled up with my 6-year-old and a pile of books, walked in the woods, and spent a gorgeous day at the lake picnicking with friends and watching the kids swim.
- A view from above