Father’s Day Is to Honor Daddying
By Allan Shedlin
Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
When the Google Alert popped up on my computer screen a few weeks before Father’s Day 11 years ago, it was the latest evidence that we were undeniably in the midst of a bona fide social evolution that held exceptional promise for children and families: the Daddying Movement. Since then, this movement has intensified and taken hold, amplified during the pandemic when more fathers were homebound.
The Alert announced that Hallmark, just in time for Father’s Day, had come out with a new greeting card for dads-to-be and new dads that said, “Happy Daddying!” This was just the latest evidence that we were in the throes of an evolution that continues to redefine what it means to be “masculine.” Although still evolving and incomplete, this daddying movement, building one newborn child and one new and newly born dad at a time, continues to build momentum. Like a snowball rolling downhill, it has steadily picked up strength and size as it has gained velocity.
Although we're not yet at the point when we can officially expand the adage to “It’s as American as Motherhood, Fatherhood, and Apple Pie,” we are getting closer, as dads are dramatically more present than ever before in playgrounds, story hours, pre-natal and parenting classes, and school PTAs and parent-teacher conferences. They are more visible carrying their infants in baby carriers as well as pushing strollers and even increasingly present utilizing changing tables in public restrooms.
Although we're not yet at the point when we can officially expand the adage to “It’s as American as Motherhood, Fatherhood, and Apple Pie,” we are getting closer, as dads are dramatically more present than ever before...
When I coined the term "daddying" in a magazine article in 1994, to distinguish the lifelong process of being a dad, as distinct from the one-time biological act of fathering, a number of folks told me that the word would never be broadly accepted because it sounded soft and "wimpy." I countered that to challenge stereotypes that limited father roles to “breadwinner” and “disciplinarian,” and expanding the roles to include “nurturer” and “work-at-home dad” was courageous and anything but wimpy.
The Daddying Movement, which I first identified in an online interview conducted by Connect for Kids in 2007 – and later wrote about the following year in a newspaper commentary – has grown steadily in the interim and it continues to expand and gain credence. After all, since father absence is a critical factor in virtually every social problem experienced by youth – truancy and school dropout rates, teen pregnancy, violence, crime, depression, and suicide – and positive father engagement has been shown to diminish the likelihood of these factors occurring, it is hopeful and exciting that such a social evolution continues to gain strength.
And if that is not enough to be hopeful about, there is increasing recognition that positive father involvement is beneficial to dads as well. During more than two and a half decades of qualitative research I have conducted with fathers, grandfathers, and even a few great grandfathers, men have shared that being a dad has enriched them by reminding them of what is really important and what needs are fundamental. It has exposed them to a new and deeper kind of love, positively diminished their self-focus; and for many, has given them a greater appreciation for their parenting partner. These individual and private indices of the daddying movement continue to leap forward as public indices proliferate. These include but are not limited to:
Fatherhood groups of all ilk and varieties continue to grow and increasingly collaborate.
Movies, TV shows, and books with a father focus have become more commonplace and fathers are more frequently portrayed as competent and even nurturing.
Fatherhood programs continue to proliferate and are offered in a wider variety of settings.
As more children grow up in homes that model these new roles for fathers and as public policies and popular media continue to feature fathers and father figures in roles that stretch our previously restricted stereotypes of dads, the movement will continue to gain momentum. Such a movement is a good thing because it:
Is more tolerant of a wider array of possibilities and relationships
Removes significant traditional barriers to human development
Broadens our potential for self-fulfillment and self-actualization
Acknowledges human and social interdependence, and
Minimizes arbitrary and constricting gender role expectations that pigeon-hole and handicap women and men alike.
Daddying is the practice of positive and vibrant father involvement and acknowledgment of a father’s responsibility for his child’s physical emotional, social, intellectual, creative, moral, and spiritual well-being. Being a dad is more than who you are, it’s what you do. So this Father’s Day, don’t keep the dad you want to be waiting.
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, a “bonus” son, five grandchildren, and three “bonus” grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, policy development, and advising. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.