Fatherhoood has not always been as worthy of celebration as it is today. Young fathers, and the not so young, today recognise the value of being close to their children and taking equal responsibility for their care.
The ongoing study, Growing Up In New Zealand, by Auckland University's centre for longitudinal research, has surveyed over 4000 fathers with children aged six and 88 per cent feel they have warm and close times with their child, 95 per cent can express affection with hugs and kisses. Perhaps more telling 84 per cent of them say they help with chores such as bathing and dressing.
Unsurprisingly, nearly three quarters say they are more involved with their children than their own father was with them, and 82 per cent rated themselves a very good or better than average parent. They might alter their idea of the average when they read these results.
Clearly, they are not as unusual as they supposed. Committed, conscientious fathers of young children appear to be the norm nowadays. It is a finding in sharp contrast to so much contemporary social science that focuses on underprivilege and abuse. Fathers in those studies are more notable for their absence.
But we should note that the 4121 fathers who responded to the Growing Up study are only 60 percent of the 6822 mothers who are taking part. The rest of the fathers either declined to answer the questions or mothers did not supply a way to contact them. But if around 90 percent of the 60 percent are as devoted as they say, it is good news.
Nearly half of them said they would like to spend more time with their kids if work permitted. It is time work did permit it. Mothers still bear the brunt of social expectations for the care of children and their career opportunities suffer for it. The day is surely coming when employers will not look askance if a man has to leave urgently to collect a sick child from school, or brings the child to the office on a school holiday.
Many a grandfather today would have to admit their son's parental performance puts theirs in the shade. But Father's Day is for all of them. All are creatures of their time. Those who were dads when the role was more distant and authoritative might wish it had been different now. But if they did their best for a family they are no less deserving of the quiet thrill it is to be remembered on Father's Day.