• Allan Shedlin

It's Time to Raise the Daddying Bar

By Allan Shedlin

Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group

Credit: AdobeStock

As we set our personal New Year resolutions, we might also set some broader societal resolutions. In so doing, I’m reminded of the invitation I received a decade ago from the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to share some ideas with a new Obama administration about starting a "fatherhood movement."

I seized the opportunity.

As this was the designated lead office on fatherhood issues, and because I had been working in, researching, and writing about fatherhood topics for almost two decades, I was eager to brainstorm with an administration led by a President who vigorously embraced his role as a dad.

Beginning boldly, I pointed out that a fatherhood movement was already underway, so a more appropriate question might be "How can the Obama administration harness the energy and momentum that already exists in the 'Daddying Movement' I had been writing about since my first commentary on the topic was published back in 2008?"

During this initial White House office meeting, I suggested it might be a good idea to convey a more energetic approach to bringing fathers fully into the family picture, one that accurately reflected the President's enthusiastic embrace of being a dad and embodied his obvious personal commitment. I recommended an appropriate starting point could be replacing the phrase that had been used by the prior three administrations: "encouraging responsible fatherhood."

That "tagline" may have been a safe starting point during the Clinton administration, but it now seemed a bit too old, tired, and modest a goal. Dads then and now were/are ready for a bolder challenge.

The new realities of recognizing the importance of including fathers as vital family members demand a new rallying cry that raises the bar of expectations. The years since the White House first used its bully pulpit to encourage responsible fatherhood have been marked by several broad social changes for fathers, including:

  • Dramatic increases in work-at-home dads

  • Burgeoning numbers and varieties of fatherhood groups

  • More commonplace outreach by schools and libraries to include fathers