I am not a frequent reader of USA Today, one of the more widely consumed newspapers in the country as it is commonly found at the foot of hotel room doors. Regardless, someone had sent along a link to, what was, a surprisingly insightful story by USA Today writer Sharon Jayson about the contemporary state of fatherhood titled “New Daditude.”
This idea of “daditude” or dad pride is relatively new to the parenting scene, but has secured a lot of attention, and not just because of the novelty factor, although novelty and humor play a large part in the new daddy identity. As writer Jeremy Adam Smith, author of The Daddy Shift describes the new daddy consciousness and expression, “Many of these dads write about their experiences with humor,” which Smith calls “the male response to being uncomfortable.” In some respects, because fathers have been viewed largely as support and/or relief for beleaguered moms who ostensibly run the show, the general conception is that the bar has been set so low, they could only impress. It is implied in the USA Today article, that because there exists no road map for paternal nurturing and involvement (evidently hands-on fatherhood is a 21st-century invention) that fathers are freed up from having to compete with one another (presumably like mothers do) and therefore take on a more playful and free-spirited approach. These notions, however, are almost entirely cynical as is evidenced by the numerous daddy-centric blogs, books, and buzz coursing through contemporary media that are attempting to, not only raise expectations, but also raise consciousness on the whole.
As an involved father, I approach much of this excitement with reserved bemusement. I am certainly pleased to see a great deal of discussion around the idea of fatherhood in contemporary society, but wonder if by rushing to label it, and reveal how diametrically opposed it is to motherhood, aren’t we cheapening the prospects of truly raising the bar on what it means, not only to be a father, but to be a parent? Maybe this is a good time to reveal, not the differences in parental roles, but the similarity and equality among parenting approaches.
Feel free to chime in, fathers, mothers, or concerned parties.
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.