According to a recent report, almost 70% of fathers say that the pandemic has brought them closer to their children. Mothers have reported a similar rise in closeness, but fathers are coming from a much lower baseline and say that the extra time at home feels like getting “a second chance.” (The Wall Street Journal)
NH: Last week, I wrote about one of the few bright spots of the pandemic: closer family bonds. (See “Lockdown Silver Lining: Closer Mother-Daughter Bonds.”)
The article I discussed drew data from a survey that was conducted with the moms of children ages 10 to 20, who focused largely on their relationships with their daughters. The survey touched on the moms’ perceptions of other relationships in the family, but did not include results from the dads’ perspective.
Now it’s Dad’s turn.
Earlier this summer, the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report examining how the pandemic has affected fathers’ relationships with their kids. Like the survey of moms, it generally shows a positive effect.
Fully 68% of dads said that they feel closer or much closer to their children, with 20% selecting “much closer.” A mere 1.4% say they feel less close. This shift is evident across all races, income levels, and education levels.
When asked about different dimensions of closeness, most dads said that they’re not only spending more time with their kids, but also becoming more emotionally connected to them. Examples include talking to their kids about things that are important to them (52%), getting to know them better (51%), participating in more activities with them (51%), and discovering new interests with them (43%). The majority of dads (57%) said that they appreciate their children more now, and 54% say they’re paying more attention to their kids’ feelings.
In my earlier piece, I pointed out that dads are more likely to be working full-time than moms, so they may not have quite as many opportunities for connection. But since their “time spent with kids” baseline is so much lower, any sustained increase in their time at home feels significant.
For many dads, this is the most time they have ever had with their kids. Consider this alongside recent trends showing that dads have become increasingly involved at home and in child care, and we’re looking at rising family engagement across the board among Gen-X and first-wave Millennial men.
Will it last when offices reopen and work returns to "normal"? Good question, because in fact many working-age adults may not be eager to get back to normal, but rather to establish “a new normal”--one that accommodates greater family connectedness. It's a lifestyle that they have grown to value during the lockdown.
In earlier surveys focusing on paternity leave, researchers found that dads who become more engaged in domestic life continue to be more involved at home even after their leaves end.
Dads may may indeed go back to their old schedules, but reluctantly and while making sure they keep carving out that extra family time.
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ABOUT NEIL HOWE
Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.
A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.
Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."
Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.
Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.
Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.