The Role of Dads
With Father’s Day upon us, the role dads play in shaping our future caused me to stop and reflect on my own references on fatherhood: the first being my own father who raised me, and the second being my husband who has been my partner in raising our three sons. I’m thinking especially of how different generations of fathers have encountered different challenges and opportunities.A few generations ago, the husband was more often than not a family’s sole or primary income provider. Culturally, it was understood that husbands bore the majority of the burden to financially provide for the family. Today, the reality is many families can’t survive on one income. This has led to more dual-income households, with both parents holding demanding jobs. In more and more cases, the wife is the primary or even sole income provider.It also used to be more common for wives to stay home to raise the kids and be the primary providers of day care, transportation, and school volunteering. As I was growing up, my mom took care of the household chores while my dad worked. Today, my husband helps with the housework, the yard work, making dinner, the laundry, and kid activities. We see lots of stories about how women need better work-life balance, but men who used to primarily provide for the family also have the challenge now of balancing work with being an equal partner in managing the home.As a result, the nature of parenting has changed. With both parents working, teamwork and partnership are required in order to raise intelligent, well-mannered, and well-rounded children.When I was young, my dad and I were close, probably more so than was true for my other siblings. I was the youngest of four, and the only one who had dark hair like my dad.He was a big influence on what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I reflect back, that encouragement was to become a model (sorry Dad; I was about three inches short of model material at 5’ 7”), a “stewardess” (which wasn’t politically incorrect at the time), or a teacher—typical women roles. Even though I was an honors student and did extremely well in math and science, daughters just weren’t encouraged to dream about non-traditional careers then.Nowadays, in addition to shaping what my sons will grow up to become, my husband has really been a huge force inspiring and motivating my own career. He’s encouraged me to take risks, and supported me in a challenging work environment. As we both work in the technology industry, he has seen the challenges firsthand that women have in technical and especially leadership roles. My dad never had any such references as he was raising me.It’s clearer to me than ever that dads play a pivotal role in shaping the direction and futures of their daughters and sons. As we celebrate Father’s Day and all that fathers do, may we encourage them to spark the next generation of leaders, defy the boundaries of traditional stereotypes about gender and careers, become male advocates for women, and help us take the lead to achieve gender parity.Happy Father’s Day to my dad and my partner for life, my husband Dennis.