Fatherhood is a Huge Identity Shift, Too — So Why Doesn’t Society Acknowledge That?

Too often, dads get a week (or less) of paternity leave before they are expected to carry on as if nothing has changed

Kevin Shafer
Motherly

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Becoming a father is a monumental transition in the lives of men. Yet, too often, it is recognized for a fleeting week (or less) of paternity leave before they are expected to carry on as if nothing has changed — a disservice not only to dads but also their partners and their children.

As they go about adapting to this new identity, there is a complex web of contradictory expectations regarding the roles fathers are expected to play both within families and in society. They are expected to provide, for example, but are met with surprise if that comes in the form of being the primary caregiver. They’re given praise for tasks that mothers do thanklessly when they are just doing what they should be doing — being a parent.

As a father, I’ve experienced this first-hand. As a sociologist, my research into how paternal mental health impacts father involvement and child well-being has further illuminated the systemic challenges that contemporary parents face when attempting to share equal responsibilities. But, just as women had to demand space for themselves in the…

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Kevin Shafer
Motherly

Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Canadian Studies at Brigham Young University.