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SuperDads: Managing Expectations of Modern Fathers

Being A Super Dad

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In 1996, the Gallup Organization conducted an opinion poll called "Fathers in America." This poll was one of the most comprehensive ever looking at attitudes of and about fathers and their roles in society. Some of the most interesting results of the poll are summarized below:

  • In response to the statement, "The most significant family, or social problem facing America is the physical absence of the father from the home, " 79.1% of poll respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.
  • In response to the statement, "It's important for children to live in a home with both their mother and father," 90.9% of respondents agreed.
  • 54% of respondents felt that most fathers did not know what was going on in their children's lives.
  • When fathers were asked about their relationship with their employers, 61.1% of them felt they would be more productive at work if their employers implemented more family friendly policies.

A 1991 survey by Fortune Magazineconcluded that 75% of fathers surveyed indicated that they would trade rapid career advancement for the chance to leave more time open to their families.

The National Center for Fathering's Gallup Poll in 1992 found 96.8% of those responding agreed that fathers should be more involved their children's education. 54.1% agreed that "fathers today spend less time with their children than their fathers did with them."

So it is clear that fathers have an important role to play in the lives of their children. It is also clear that many fathers are failing in that role. For example,

  • An estimated 24.7 million children in the United States (36.3% of all children) live absent from their biological father.
  • Today nearly 4 out of 10 first marriages end in divorce, 60% of divorcing couples have children, and over one million children each year experience the divorce of their parents.
  • About 40% of the children who live in fatherless households haven't seen their fathers in at least a year while 50% of children who don't live with their fathers have never stepped foot in their father's home.

Well, dads, we have a big job to do, and we need to do it better. But the challenge is to do it effectively.

I certainly know many committed fathers who, if their financial needs could be met in other ways, would quite work and be full-time dads. But that opportunity is not afforded to many of us. So the rest of us have to engage in a balancing act: trying to keep work and profession, family, and personal needs in a dynamic equilibrium.

Being a super-dad does not entail, at least for me, giving your full time and attention to your family and children. The true mark of a super dad is making family your top priority: maximizing the time you have to spend as a dad and then making that time of the highest quality.

The fact of the matter today is that fathers can't be all about fun. Even if you only have your children every other weekend, that time can't be just "Disneyland Dad" time. While it is important to have fun, you also need to cultivate responsibility and values in the lives of your children.

So in my mind, a super dad is all about balance. It is about balancing time and priorities so your family really does come first. It is about keeping the other aspects of your life (work and personal) at their appropriate levels. And it is about giving your children a well-rounded family experience with appropriate amounts of fun, work, service and values.

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