Perceptions of fatherhood

Jeff Morosoff, Assistant Professor, Hofstra University

There has been a seismic shift in the perceived role of fathers in the last half-century or so.  Fatherhood became far more than “bringing home the bacon” and the occasional ball-toss with the boy.  Focus shifted to “quality time” and shared parental responsibility; dads were told to find balance between work and family or they weren’t being good parents. 

This week a survey of nearly 1,000 American fathers with professional careers was made public by researchers at the Boston College Center for Work & Family.  The respondents rated job security and flexible working hours as more important than high income and good advancement opportunities.  The findings suggested that many dads are still quite conflicted about finding a work-family balance.  I share that experience; as my four children grew I often found myself too focused on professional success and would try to pull back to spend more quality time.

TV sitcoms haven’t represented this shift.  With few exceptions, sitcom dads have long been portrayed as clueless and detached.  From Danny Thomas’ early ’60s hit “Make Room for Daddy” to the current “Modern Family,” TV fathers usually rely on the wiser females to solve any problems concerning their kids.  Even the dad in the early sitcom titled “Father Knows Best” was very removed from daily household routines and would offer a few wise parenting words as he relaxed after a hard day’s work at the office.  Reality TV has offered few exceptions.  From “The Osbournes” to “John & Kate Plus 8,” the formula is often repeated; rare is the TV dad shown dealing with the kind of angst and desire for balance the study suggests. 

Maybe it’s time for sitcoms to portray dads as what they truly are today: Caring parents who are far less tied to “traditional” household roles and try to be good fathers as much as they try to make a living.  I guess that might not be as funny.  But it’s real.  Your thoughts?

 Happy Father’s Day!

4 thoughts on “Perceptions of fatherhood

  1. Jennie Sedlacek

    I completely understand where you are coming from! But I honestly do feel like in “real” life the mothers play a different role in the domesticated life rather than the father. Whereas the father isn’t expected to do the laundry, fix dinner, and take the kids to their after school activities he does it “when he has the time” or even just “because he notices his wife is stressed out.” To touch on the issue of Television dad’s portraying these roles I feel as if they have changed but clearly not all. There are the Television series such as, “American Dad,” “Family Guy,” and “Married with children,” that do not help and only feed into the “typical” perception of what a father is, the money maker that is clueless and only acts when is represented a problem by their wife. But remember these shows; “Andy Griffth,” My three sons,” “Leave it to beaver,” “The Brady Bunch,” “7th Heaven,” I feel like these shows depicted fathers in a quite different light showing how knowledgeable and caring they really are, only wanting to find their children to grow up maturely and respectful of others.

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  2. Louise Cassano

    Right on the mark, Jeff. My two grown sons, in their forties with young children of their own, are good cooks, know how to do laundry and iron, vacuum, and still take an active interest in their children’s lives and activities and do all of those other traditional loving and caring things like earning a living and taking out the trash.

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  3. jmorosoff Post author

    I’ve never seen that show, Theresa. It’s good to hear that there’s something out there beyond the clueless Ray Romanos and (rest in peace) Bernie Macs that have dominated sitcomland. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  4. Theresa Cooper

    Hey Professor Morosoff. Have you ever seen the show “My Wife and Kids”? I haven’t seen it in a while, but it came to mind when I was over looking your quandaries. The father, Micheal Kyle, in the show does a pretty good job of showing audiences that he is there for his wife and three kids and also holds down a steady job, of which I can’t remember what that is at the moment. He has a good relationship with his children and is always willing to lend his services in teaching them life lessons and dealing with every day issues as well.

    Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your Father’s Day and I will see you in class tomorrow.

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