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The role of dad: Are fathers taking on more household responsibilities, child care?

Denver7 went 360 looking at challenges for dads
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Posted at 8:43 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 10:22:36-05

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.

The bumbling dad stereotype made for some 1980s movie classics, but it’s not today’s reality. Many surveys and studies have indicated that more couples are equally sharing child care duties than before the pandemic.

But we wanted to dig a little deeper about what it means for dads to be more involved, and if that’s possible for all dads. Denver7 went 360, speaking to different experts and found there are societal biases, economic factors, and even internal barriers that remain a challenge for dads.

“They really do want to be a part of caretaking for their children, but there are a number of obstacles to that,” said Dr. Steve Rissman, a professor at Metropolitan State University.

Rissman runs a men’s health and wellness program at MSU.

Rissman said in conversations with male students, he’s learned many fathers feel inadequately prepared for raising children.

There are also economic factors at play, especially for fathers who have lost job or are forced to work more during the pandemic.

Kenneth Braswell, founder of Fathers Incorporated, works with Black fathers. He said financial difficulties have disproportionately affected Black families. Non-custodial fathers are also facing challenges trying to see their children.

Another challenge for some parents is feeling validated by their workplace.

“I think there is stigma around people who are in a non-nuclear relationship structure,” said Eneri Rodriguez, a gender studies professor at MSU.

She said non-traditional families want work-life balance but may hesitate to ask for additional support from an employer.

“Sharing your story with an employer may put you at higher risk — it may marginalize you further,” Rodriguez said.

But for many men who have been able to spend more time at home during the pandemic, it’s been a rewarding experience.

Golden resident Erik Shoeneman left his job at the beginning of the pandemic to help with child care. He also used the time to finish his degree at MSU through a grant program for displaced workers.

He’s now looking for a job that allows him to work, at least part-time, from home.

“You hear the cliché you wish you had more time with your family, and we feel like we’ve been able to take advantage of this time,” he said.