These days, dads are pretty pleased with themselves

June 18, 2006|By SUSAN REIMER

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO ALL the co-mothers out there.

That's the headline this holiday: 99 percent of dads believe they do as good or better job than moms, according to BabyCenter.com, an online resource for new and expectant parents.

And 97 percent of moms agree.

"I wasn't surprised to learn that men thought they did as good a job," said Linda Murray, editor in chief of the Web site and its companion magazine, BabyCenter.

"Men are more self-confident than women anyway. What really surprised me is that Mom said, 'Yeah. He is.'

"I think that means it is a real partnership now. They are co-parenting and taking equal responsibility for the kids."

In other results from 2,000 parents representing a cross-section of generations from Boomer to Gen Y, 77 percent of dads believe they are better than Mom at one or more child-rearing tasks.

Dads are willing to concede that Mom is better at scheduling appointments, classes and social outings, but they believe they are better at the family budget.

Dads are likely to feel Mom is better at feeding kids, dealing with the babysitters and teacher, and managing everyone's schedule. But 80 percent of fathers say they are just as good as Mom in the area of discipline.

And both parents agree that each is equally good at playing, diapering, bathing, bedtime routine, reviewing homework, comforting, making school decisions and buying kids' products.

"It surprised me that almost all of the dads think they are doing a great job. It surprised me that it was so unanimous," said Murray.

"But what I think is happening is this: He isn't comparing himself to Mom. He is comparing himself to his dad. That's the difference."

This survey comes at the same time as heftier research from the National Center for Health Statistics that, for the first time ever, looked at men and their skills as parents. Previous reports studied only women.

It is a strange juxtaposition. The government is just getting around to looking at men as parents while an Internet survey suggests that fathers have evolved to the point where they are no longer willing to take a back seat to mothers in any aspect of parenthood.

The government research found that men who have at least a college degree tend to be more involved in their children's lives.

They are more likely to play with them, to bathe them, to eat meals with them and they are just as likely as mothers (98 percent vs. 97 percent) to find parenthood worthwhile, despite the work and expense.

Meanwhile, fathers with only a high school diploma or less are less likely to do these routine things with their children, possibly because nearly half of those without a high school diploma have fathered children outside of marriage while only 6 percent of men with college degrees have done so.

This government survey of fatherhood confirms our suspicions: parenthood is another area of life in which education matters.

But there is a missed synapse here as well: Fathers are starting to think of themselves as pretty good mothers, just as the federal government is noticing them in the room.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear an audio clip of this column and others, go to baltimoresun.com / reimer.

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