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!