The Changing Roles of Fatherhood - Random Reasonings

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The Changing Roles of Fatherhood

69-1974 By Carol Guild

Up through the 1960s, in most households dads were the sole bread-winner for the family and therefore were often the absent figure in children’s lives. Like Ward Cleaver in the popular TV show ‘Leave it to Beaver”, the dad came home after a day at work, enjoyed some relaxation reading the newspaper and perhaps having a drink, before the stay-at-home mom had dinner ready.

On TV the dad’s involvement with his kids was listening to them tell about their days while eating dinner. This scene was duplicated in many TV shows of the era such as “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show”.  Dads were the disciplinarians of the family. The phrase “just wait til your dad gets home” could set up fear of their dads for kids.

There were only a few shows that broke that mold, such as “The Andy Griffith Show”, where son Opie got to drop into the town’s sheriff office to see his dad whenever he wanted.

By the 1970s family shows started to change to represent the changing times and changing roles of dads and moms in the family unit. As more and more women chose a career path and divorce rates started to rise, TV shows of the 1970s reflected that.

Family sitcoms in the 1970s also started to combine topical issues of the day with comedy in shows such as “All in the Family”, Sanford and Sons”, “Happy Days”, and “Good Times” where dads played leading roles.

The definition of parenting started to change. Even in divorce situations, where children automatically stayed in the custody of the mom, the principle of “best interest of the children” was implemented so that dads could get easier parental rights and shared custody.

Changing expectations for dads back then created an entire generation of confusion in the roles men should play in day-to-day family life. The children who grew up during the 1950s and 1960s are now the grandparents, the baby boomers whose kids are the millennials – the biggest demographic group ever!

Only 40% of milllennial men are fathers, compared to 61.6% of men from the Baby Boomer generation.

It makes me think about my family and how non-typical we were in the 1950s and 1960s. And I think about how different our dad was as a role model to me than he was to either of my two brothers. He was also a step-father to my four step-siblings, and became a dad again at age 44 when my half brother was born. I think each of us had a very unique and different relationship with our dad.

Like Opie in the Andy Griffith Show, I could see my dad anytime I wanted. He didn’t go out to a job; he owned a business so I could stop in to see him whenever I wanted. I worked in his business throughout my childhood and teen years so we spent a lot of time together.

Despite the very different relationships my two brothers and I had with our dad, I can see some examples in each of us that are a direct result of the values he had. On Father’s Day, I am reminded of those and how, as the only daughter, I tried to pass them along to my son who is the only grandson.

The first is Honesty. I always felt my dad was honest with me. That didn’t mean, however, that I agreed with or appreciated his honesty. But with an honest person, you always know what he believes, even if you don’t share his beliefs.

Another example my dad set is the value of giving. Dad volunteered with local civic groups and he helped make a positive difference for the community he lived in by giving countless hours of time. He always gave money to organizations he felt provided benefits to those in need. He tithed 10% to his church and was usually the first to step forward when there were needs of the church.

Dad lived a lifestyle that was far beneath what he could have afforded. He never saw the need for a large house or an expensive automobile, or the flaunting of wealth. His ranch house and Buick fit his needs just fine in the years after all the kids were grown and moved out.

Because of his frugality he and my step-mother got to do a lot of traveling after he retired. By the time he passed away he had gone everywhere he wanted to and had no regrets. But frivolous spending was  something he never did. My brothers and I have learned the value of money and the responsibilities of living within our means because of him.

The best example Dad set for us is Cheerfulness. My dad had to deal with a lot of challenges during  his life. The kind of challenges that could easily lead a person down a path of destructive behavior. Yet through them all he remained constantly cheerful.

This year has been an extremely challenging one for me when it comes to staying cheerful. I like to think I am using his example as I face every day. I get lots of emails from friends who remind me how strong and optimistic I am. Each time I get one it’s a boost to my spirit.

But it also reminds me of when I first realized my dad had lost his cheerful, optimistic outlook on his life. For 18 months, starting September of 2018, sadness slowly overtook cheerfulness. Apathy replaced interest. He no longer had a life he enjoyed. He passed away in January of 2020.

It’s a shame that life can wear us down this way. This Father’s Day I can truly say the examples passed along by my dad have had a huge impact on me. And it’s all positive.

“Raising kids is the only job where you work 24 hours a day and it actually costs you money.”

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  1. Terrific post Carol. I hope you enjoy writing your blog as much as I enjoy reading it!

    Your dad also gave you a rock solid work ethic, respect for others, tolerance, acceptance of responsibility and a host of other things.

  2. Thanks Hutch. I love writing the blog and it’s always rewarding when readers like it. You are so oright in listing other things of value my dad taught me. I was lucky that he was my dad.

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