When people think of single parents, they probably automatically go to the image of a single mom, the one who's struggling to make ends meet because either the father bailed, or even more tragically, has passed away. Although that cliché of the single parent being a mother will never quite leave our brains, the fact is many men, far more than ever, are single dads. According to Pew Research Center, a record 8 percent of households in the US are single dads with one or more kids.
"There were 2.6 million households led by a single father in 2011, a ninefold increase from 1960 when that number was fewer than 300,000. This means that men now lead about a quarter of all single-parent families."
So this begs the question: Are dads the new moms?
Although there are many factors that contribute to this shift of the "typical" American family, a lot of it can be found in the increase of children being born to unwed parents (in 2008 this was the case at 40 percent of births to unwed mothers), divorce rates are, of course, far higher than they were in the 60s and 70s, and in something that may have seemed almost impossible 10 years ago, men are having an easier time gaining custody. Once upon a time, kids were almost always given to the mothers.
Another huge aspect in the rise of single dads is that traditional gender roles are shifting. While Don Draper would not stand for such behavior, men are taking on the responsibility of being the primary caregiver in relationships where the mother is working, or there's been a divorce.
Men, single or happily married, are in the kitchen, vacuuming the home, and even finding themselves covered in spit-up in the some way women used to back when the world had decided that's just how a family works.
But despite this new wave of Mr. Mom, these men are getting some flack, and even some unsolicited advice from mothers who are the primary caregivers, and seem to think they know far more about parenting than any man.
In a piece for The Daily Beast, Conor Williams discussed just how he holds it together when it comes to caring for his two young children while mom is out there making the bacon.
"As a dad who is also the primary caretaker for my two-year-old son and three-month-old daughter, I get a lot of unsolicited performance reviews. Even in my liberal Beltway enclave, dads like me face pretty constant, emasculating ridicule for putting fatherhood above career. Most definitions of masculinity can accommodate shirts soaked with sweat, blood, or ambiguous grime ... but not applesauce. Very few of history's notable men counted competent diaper changes among their primary talents. Manhood is decidedly not the province of those who spend their days reading children’s books in various pitches of falsetto."
He does make a very valid point, but why does that have to be case?
For those who have forgotten, it's 2013. While we gather around the television to watch Mad Men, and movies from another era, we have to remind ourselves that gender no longer defines who takes on what responsibility in a family. It also shouldn't define whether a single dad is capable of raising a child just because he's not a woman.
When statistics are "on the rise," it means that the times are changing and we can't stop it.
Before long, single dads will be something to which we'll never bat an eye, and that's how it should be. Being a great parent isn't about gender; it's about sacrifice, devotion and most importantly love.
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