by Kenneth Braswell, CEO, Fathers Incorporated
It’s a unique time for American fatherhood as change and action sweep across our country, significantly altering the landscape and the narrative around the role of fathers. I stand at the helm of Fathers Incorporated, an organization that tirelessly works towards creating a society that recognizes, respects, and supports the significant role fathers play in our families and communities. Today, I am writing to shed light on the various initiatives, reports, and legislations that are pushing boundaries, challenging norms, and paving the way for a new era of fatherhood.
The Congressional Dads Caucus, the ‘State of America’s Fathers 2023‘ report, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, the Father’s Day Resolution, and the Enhanced Child Tax Credit – each of these are monumental strides towards creating a robust care ecosystem, one that empowers fathers to be more involved caregivers.
The Congressional Dads Caucus is a seminal initiative that creates a platform for lawmakers who are also fathers, bringing the perspective of dads into legislative decision-making. This caucus recognizes that caregiving is not a women’s issue but a family issue, one that requires the active participation and contribution of fathers. The caucus is an ally, an advocate for fathers across America, providing an important lens into policy-making and making it more inclusive.
The ‘State of America’s Fathers 2023‘ report is an enlightening piece of research that delves into the multifaceted dynamics of men as caregivers in the United States. It underscores a significant shift in men’s attitudes and practices as they take on more care work than ever before, challenging the traditional gender norms that have long dictated the realm of caregiving. This report does not aim to overshadow the indispensable work that women have been doing and continue to do, but rather invites men into the conversation as allies for the care policies we all need to thrive.
The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act stands as a critical legislative advancement addressing the health disparities faced by Black mothers. However, it also highlights the essential role of Black fathers in supporting the health and well-being of Black families. This act goes beyond mere healthcare. It’s a strong statement against racial inequality, an affirmation of the need for comprehensive, culturally competent, and holistic care that understands and acknowledges the unique challenges faced by Black families.
In addition, the Father’s Day Resolution adds symbolic value, recognizing and appreciating the critical role fathers play in our lives. This resolution, although seemingly simple, carries a profound message about the importance of fathers and the need for society to recognize their contributions more openly.
The Enhanced Child Tax Credit comes as a significant financial relief for families across the country. This policy amendment acknowledges the economic challenges that parents face and provides the necessary support. This support is particularly beneficial for fathers striving to fulfill their roles responsibly and compassionately.
However, the road to equality and fairness in caregiving is still long and winding. It is only through sustained efforts and a steadfast commitment to advocating for policies that address gender norms, economic disparities, and racial inequalities that we can truly progress. The burden of care must not fall disproportionately on women, nor should it exclude men who are eager and capable of sharing this responsibility.
Fatherhood, as we have long known, is not merely about the biological act of siring a child. It is about nurturing, teaching, supporting, and, yes, caregiving. It is about men playing their part in creating homes where equality is the norm, not the exception. It is about understanding and acknowledging the mental load that has traditionally been carried by women and striving to share that load equitably.
The heartening aspect is that fathers across America are rising to this call.
Fathers are willingly challenging the age-old stereotypes that have kept them at a distance from the caring roles in their households. Our ‘State of America’s Fathers 2023‘ report revealed that a significant majority of men affirm their willingness to work less and accept less pay for more time to invest in their caregiving roles.
This is not a choice of convenience. It’s a choice of commitment, a recognition that the next generation’s well-being depends on both mothers and fathers sharing the joys, responsibilities, and challenges of caregiving. We have seen Black fathers doing double the care work of their White counterparts, debunking the long-held, harmful myths about absent Black fathers and painting a more accurate, respectful picture of their deep involvement in care work.
Such proactive attitudes and actions by fathers should be met with robust support from our society and our policymakers. We need to ensure that both men and women, all parents, are entitled to paid leave, allowing them the time and space to be the caregivers they aspire to be. Our workplaces need to shed the traditional norms that discourage men from taking parental leave and instead create environments where men and women feel equally empowered to balance their professional commitments with their caregiving roles.
Moreover, we must recognize that the weight of poverty and racial inequality only makes these challenges more daunting for many fathers. Access to paid leave and other care policies should not be a privilege of the wealthy or a specific racial group. It should be a right accessible to all parents irrespective of their economic or racial background.
The initiatives, legislations, and resolutions we discuss today are promising steps forward. The Congressional Dads Caucus, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, the Father’s Day Resolution, and the Enhanced Child Tax Credit – all of them are crucial instruments of change. But they are not the destination. They are milestones on the long journey towards a more equal, supportive, and empathetic society.
At Fathers Incorporated, we commit to walking this journey with every father in America. We will continue to advocate for policies that allow fathers to be the caregivers they want to be and the role models they wish to be for their children.
Our mission goes beyond influencing policies; it also involves changing hearts and minds, dismantling stereotypes, and building a new narrative around fatherhood – a narrative based on shared responsibility, mutual support, and love.
As we strive towards a new era of fatherhood, let’s remember that every step we take is not just for us but for our children. Let’s create a world where they grow up seeing both their parents actively involved in their care, a world where gender does not dictate who changes the diapers, who helps with homework, or who comforts during a stormy night. That world is possible, and together, we can make it a reality.
We celebrate this Father’s Day with the resolution of a better tomorrow for all dads and, indeed, for all parents. Because, in the end, responsible fatherhood is not just about better fathers; it’s about better families, better communities, and a better world.