The Changing Roles of Parenthood

From the agrarian age to the technological age parenting roles have changed considerably but is it for the better or are the children slipping through the cracks?

Over the decades parenting roles have changed significantly, some may say for the better others may disagree. As it stands today, beliefs sway towards the mother being the primary nurturer, provider and role model for the children. However, that is significantly different than the agrarian age (rural life based on farming). During that time fathers played a very different role. In the traditional model of fatherhood, fathers played a dominant role in the lives of their children, assuming a broad range of responsibilities defining and supervising the children’s development (Tanfer, Mott, 1997). Mothers actually looked to their husbands for insight on matters of childrearing.

As we moved into the industrial age things began to significantly change as parenting roles shifted. Fathers were forced to look for other ways to support their families and entered the marketplace, finding jobs away from home and having to be gone much of the day thus giving mothers a more dominant role in raising the children. The father now derived his status from the outside world. His occupational standing, his economic power established not only his authority in the home, but his worthiness as a husband and father as well (Tanfer, Mott, 1997).

To change things even further we entered an era of technology, gadgets, toys and the pursuit of living a life of luxury. The role of a father as “good providers” changed again. Instead of being measured by his ability to nurture, care for, and ability to be a good role model he had new challenges when it came to providing. “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality begins to take hold and now he is considered to be a good provider if there are enough toys to play with, multiple cars, big house and an abundance of insignificant material possessions. The pressure on fathers to be this kind of provider takes away even more from their parenting role.

Obviously many men have risen to the challenge and have been involved in their children’s lives; changing diapers, feeding, nurturing, reading bed-time stories, or throwing the ball back and forth all while bringing home a paycheck. However, others haven’t faired as well and the pressure drives them to be absent and not take part in their children’s lives. They shirk their responsibilities and provide no or little support for their child, which introduces a new term, “dead beat dads.”

Obviously, the children suffer when their fathers aren’t around to guide them and teach them about life but what about the mother’s role? Is it possible that society has shifted the parenting roles for women also, affecting the balance? The past several decades women have found new opportunities with education and work outside the home. No longer devoting themselves to full-time motherhood. They too are looking to help fill the gap of paying the mortgage, insurance, and the acquisition of even more material possessions. Many are forced to work because they are a single parent without sufficient support. Again it is quite obvious that the children are affected as they are raised by society rather than their parents.

Research has shown with this shift, women pursuing careers and such that fathers are actually reducing the time they spend at work, opting for more home activities. However, this is not filling the gap and still falls short of meeting the needs of the children. In this day and age it is hard to imagine a scenario that would restore the form of family that was common a couple generations ago. Nevertheless it is important that parents understand that there used to be a time where things were simpler, life was better, and children were a priority. Whether it is the mother or father that is the primary parent it is important that both parents participate in their children’s lives each being a positive role model and influence. In a society where instant gratification prevails and the need for the latest gadgets drives us to push farther into our careers we need to not let our children slip through the cracks. Society has lessons to teach them but they shouldn’t be the ones they learn from you. Take the time, slow down and the next time you have an extra hour on your agenda fill it with quality time with your children.