Yesterday we went out and filmed some on-the-street interviews around town, asking people how they see the role of fathers. Initially, the responses weren't terribly revealing as most everyone we spoke with agreed that involved fatherhood is a good thing. I don't think anyone in this day and age can disagree with that - at least not the people I've come across so far. It seems to be a cultural belief that being an involved dad is important. Heck, even MacDonalds has a commercial promoting the idea. Nothing wrong with that!
In the interviews we asked people what they saw the priority was in terms of the most important role of a dad - and they almost unanimously chose involved with kids over financial support.
But now here's the contradiction: when the same people were the asked their attitudes about Stay-At-Home Dads the majority of them viewed this extreme version of the involved dad as unacceptable behavior on a man's part.
"A Stay-At-Home Dad is a man too lazy to work for a living," one woman said after speaking so glowingly about how important an involved dad is.
And herein lies the cultural paradox: we live in a society that espouses the virtue of an involved dad, however, when it comes down to it, the real value our society places on dads is still firmly anchored to the fifties notion of the breadwinner dad.
Now, of course this is all somewhat extreme. Certainly there has been a shift for dads to be more involved with the care of their kids. And certainly there were people we interviewed who were very accepting of Stay-At-Home Dads. It's not like things haven't changed - but they have changed a lot less than we'd like to think.
The paradoxical cultural message we are brought up with is very confusing. There is a bit of confusion at this point especially to what it really means to be an involved dad - and the next time we film on-the-street interviews, my goal is to dig deeper into this.
My wife had an interesting insight into this which I think is worth including. From her perspective where dads are currently is parallel to where moms were in the 80's, trying to navigate between having careers and the home front. The notion of 'quality time' was a fairly constant phrase back then, which emphasized that it wasn't the amount of time one spent with one's children but the quality. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with that idea but my wife saw this socially ingrained phrase (and I'd agree) as a way of justifying more time away from home.
There's a lot of confusion, pressure and guilt around how much time should be spent at work vs at home and the answers are neither simple nor easy - for dads and moms alike. What I do hope to explore in this film are creative solutions that different families and companies have undertaken in terms of flex time, staggered schedules, etc, with the hope that it will open up minds as to how to improve our society or at least creatively navigate a better family/work balance.