February 23, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The Pew Research Center finds that today’s fathers want to spend more time with their children despite spending more time with them than did dads in the past (Pew Research Center, 1/8/18).
U.S. fathers today are spending more time caring for their children than they did a half-century ago. Still, most (63%) say they spend too little time with their kids and a much smaller share (36%) say they spend the right amount of time with them, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in August and September 2017.
Pew earlier found that fathers are spending about seven hours per week on childcare on average and about nine hours on household chores (Pew Research Center, 6/15/17). Those totals are about triple what fathers did 50 years ago.
That fathers feel they spend too little time with their children shouldn’t surprise us. They’ve long felt fatherhood to be a vital part of their identities.
Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity. Some 57% of fathers say this, compared with 58% of mothers. Most dads seem to appreciate the benefits of parenthood – 54% report that parenting is rewarding all of the time, as do 52% of moms. Meanwhile, 46% of fathers and 41% of mothers say they find parenting enjoyable all of the time.
So why aren’t fathers spending as much time as they’d like with their children?
For both dads and moms who say they spend too little time with their kids, work obligations are cited most often as the main reason: 62% of dads and 54% of moms say this is the case. However, a sizable share of fathers (20%) say the main reason they spend too little time with their children is that they don’t live with them full-time.
The fact that work keeps fathers from spending as much time with their kids as they’d like is easily predictable. So is the fact that children who live with only one parent spend most of their time with Mom. About 60% of children live in intact families with both parents and 20% of fathers don’t spend as much time with their kids as they want because the children don’t live with them. So it’s a fair estimate that half of fathers who don’t live with their children say they’d like to spend more time with them.
The fact that they don’t, then isn’t due to their lack of desire, but to other factors. Needless to say, that’s where family courts come in. Few divorced fathers have anything close to 50/50 custody, and that appears to result in their dissatisfaction about parenting time.
Interestingly, no fathers said they spend too much time with their children, but 12% of mothers did. That would seem to suggest at least a partial solution to the problem of fathers spending too little time, but I suspect courts won’t take notice.
Fathers without a college education are significantly more likely to not live with their children than are those with a bachelor’s degree or more. That too is unsurprising. For example, the out-of-wedlock birth phenomenon is far more pronounced among non-college-educated mothers than those better educated. The overall rate of births to single mothers is about 41%, but to college-educated mothers it’s more like 8%.
Plus, the single factor that best predicts a man getting divorced is the loss of a job. That suggests – and anecdotal information from women confirms – that a man’s employment is a significant factor in whether he gets and remains married. Naturally, college-educated men are more likely to be employed and better employed than their non-college-educated counterparts.
The takeaway is that men are upping their game when it comes to parenting. They’re doing more and they want to do more still, but various factors militate against them. One of course is the family court system that routinely sidelines fathers in the lives of their children. The other is the fact that fathers do significantly more paid work than do mothers. If mothers did more, that would free fathers to do less. And since 12% of mothers say they spend too much time with their children, maybe they could work out a deal with the fathers of their kids.
Just a suggestion.
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