At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade. In his place, research shows, is emerging a new model of at-home fatherhood that puts a distinctly masculine stamp on child-rearing and home life.
At-home dads aren’t trying to be perfect moms, says a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Instead, they take pride in letting their children take more risks on the playground, compared with their spouses. They tend to jettison daily routines in favor of spontaneous adventures with the kids. And many use technology or DIY skills to squeeze household budgets, or find shortcuts through projects and chores, says the study, based on interviews, observation of father-child outings and an analysis of thousands of pages of at-home dads’ blogs and online commentary.
Attorney Erin O’Callaghan, with her son Finn, says her parenting style is different from that of her at-home husband, Bryan Grossbauer.
“Just as we saw a feminization of the workplace in the past few decades, with more emphasis on such skills as empathy and listening, we are seeing the opposite at home — a masculinization of domestic tasks and routines,” says Gokcen Coskuner-Balli, an assistant professor of marketing at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and lead author of the study. “Many men are building this alternative model of home life that is outdoorsy, playful and more technology-oriented.”
In New Rochelle, N.Y., Grossbauer takes his children, 2-year-old Finn and 9-month-old Georgina, outside twice a day for yard work or a hike through the woods. He wasn’t bothered when Finn recently picked a route through a big puddle and took a fall. “He walked back home happy as a lark, covered in mud,” says Grossbauer, a former actor and teacher.
He takes pride in pushing the kids to solve problems for themselves. Recently, Grossbauer stood back and encouraged Finn to figure out how to fetch a ball he had tossed into a milk crate nailed to a tree, just out of reach. After 20 minutes of frustration, and begging his dad to get it, Finn found a stool and retrieved the ball — a lesson in self-control and perseverance, Grossbauer says…
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