Why start a Fatherhood website with any number of excellent Fatherhood websites – Fatherville, MrDad, RebelDad – are already out there? What can possibly be added to the conversation? And why call it PracticalDad?
The articles on PracticalDad are generally a hands-on approach to the situations and circumstances that confront many fathers who take an active role in childrearing and the household. This focus is deliberate because I believe that the American family structure, as well as our society, is in the midst of significant change. And much of that change will both involve and affect the American father.
Although much of this change is economy-driven, there was prior evidence that the father’s role in the family was changing. A 2008 study by Oriel Sullivan and Scott Coltrane noted that fathers were spending double the time on housework and triple the time on childcare as they were in 1965. Women still spend more time on these functions than their mates, but the levels had dropped with the slack taken up by the men. More men, some of whom were from divorced families, were stepping up to assure that their own children and families had the presence that they had missed.
Now comes the economic downturn that some wags are referring to as a mancession. The term emanates from the startling statistic that in multiple months of layoffs, fully 70% of job losses were suffered by men; the recession had a much larger impact on the male-dominated construction and industrial sectors than on the predominantly female health and service sectors. So hundreds of thousands of men – many of whom are fathers – are back home while their mates become full-time breadwinners. A further upshot of the recession is that the woman’s average income has risen at a rate disproportionate to that of the average man. While the man’s income is still higher, the woman is catching up and will reach parity at some point. This isn’t a whining complaint, just acknowledging reality.
The simple truth is that the American economy is in a decline and will not return in any form that resembles what we’ve known in our time. The persistent transfer of our manufacturing jobs to lower-cost nations coupled with massive overbuilding in residential and commercial structures have eliminated any significant near-term recovery in these areas. Mass higher-paying jobs for men – akin to the auto plants and steel mills of our industrial glory days – are only a dream in the coming America.
So where does that leave the American father? In training for another job, a period that could last several years. Hitting the road in search of employment to support the family at home. Or back at home with the kids until the economic ship somehow finally rights itself. In any case, the typical father is – like I was – probably unprepared and asking the eternal question: What in the hell do I do now?
PracticalDad describes the viewpoint of someone who cares more about what works and makes sense in today’s world than any particular parenting philosophy. A PracticalDad only knows that the kids are the first priority. They have to be cared for, loved and raised and the old fatherhood models for doing so really don’t apply to his situation anymore. So he’ll observe and adapt, understanding that so long as the kids are properly covered, there can be any number of ways to make it happen.