The Everydad

What Millennial Dads Are Doing Better Than Previous Generations

written by MIA REVAK
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Recently, as I pulled into work while talking to my mom on the phone, she asked about my 18-month-old daughter—her granddaughter. I said she was going to the doctor that day for a check-up, and my mom asked if I was taking off work for the appointment. “No,” I said, and she sounded puzzled. “Then who is taking her?” she asked, as if there was no one else who could possibly do the job. I replied that my husband offered to take her, as his work schedule was more flexible than mine that day. “Wow,” was all she said. When I questioned her response, she replied: “Your father was never able to take you to doctors’ appointments. Things are so different now.” I nodded in agreement, thankful that my daughter has a millennial dad. 

Millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—don’t always have the greatest reputation. Lazy, entitled, and selfish are just a few of the negative stereotypes about millennials. As a millennial myself, I tend to disagree, especially when it comes to my husband. He gives 110 percent effort into everything he does, including his role as a father. This level of effort and dedication seems to be one of the generational differences between millennial dads and other generations—like every one I see proudly wearing his baby carrier at the park… or solo parenting at the doctor’s office. 

What Millennial Dads are Doing Better Than Previous Generations

We know there are differences in parenting between millennials and previous generations. With fathers, the biggest difference overall is the level of involvement in care. While, of course, we love our dads, it’s fair to say moms of the past did almost all of the heavy lifting when it came to child-rearing. We still have progress to make, but times have changed for the better. Keep reading to see what might make millennial dads the best generations of fathers so far.

They spend more time with their kids

Millennial dads are more likely to take regular night shifts with a newborn or become active members of the school’s PTO/PTA than previous generations. The Pew Research Center found millennial dads have tripled the amount of time dedicated to childcare compared to dads from 1965. In a 2016 study, The Pew Research Center also found that 57 percent of millennial dads consider being a parent as part of their identity, which is only one percent less than mothers at 58 percent. When fathers inherently believe that parenthood is part of who they are, they will dedicate more time and effort to raising their children. 

“Millennial dads have tripled the amount of time dedicated to childcare compared to dads from 1965.”

Now, it does help that more people work from home than in years past. According to reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, 5.7 percent of Americans were working from home. According to Forbes Advisor, as of 2023, 12.5 percent of employees work remotely. The amount of remote workers has increased since the pandemic, but the majority of employees still work outside the home. Whether inside or outside the home, having a job that is more flexible allows for fathers to share more of the load when it comes to childcare. And the more that men can help in the day-to-day child-rearing, the more that parenthood can become an integral part of who they are. 

millennial dads
Source: @karissfarris

They prioritize paternity leave

Research in Iceland proved that fathers who took at least two weeks of paternity leave became more involved in their child’s life in the long term. However, if you’ve never asked a boomer dad if they took paternity leave, be prepared for a laugh in your face. Whether due to a cultural stigma or the fact that the United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t require paid parental leave, the importance of paternity leave was lost on older generations of fathers.

Thankfully, millennial dads not only see the benefit, but they also are actively searching for it. In Ernst & Young’s global generational survey, 83 percent of millennials said they would look for a company with strong parental leave benefits. There are even companies like Parentaly and Tilt that make it their mission to help companies successfully manage their leave programs. Because of this desire, a cultural shift is on the horizon in both the workforce and in legislation, with a paid family leave act gaining momentum across the country. For millennial dads, not taking paternity leave is no longer a badge of honor.

They care about their mental health

Dads struggle with their mental health, too, and millennials are much more open about it than previous generations. According to a survey by the Thriving Center of Psychology, 55 percent of Gen Z and millennials have been to therapy, 39 percent plan to go in 2024, and 90 percent of Gen Z and millennials believe more people should go to therapy in general. Therapy and mental health struggles don’t have the same negative stigma that may have existed for older generations of men.

They don’t assume traditional gender roles

Gender roles blur for millennial dads, too. A recent study conducted by the marketing agency Bigeye concluded that millennials, even over Gen Z, are more likely to push back on traditional gender stereotypes. And because more women are in the workforce than ever, it has become less common for dads to be the primary earner. With both parents working, millennial dads understand that childcare and household duties are not a one-person job reserved for the mother. Rather parenthood today is more of a partnership, where both parents might not only leave for the office but also drop off the kids at soccer practice.

millennial dads
Source: @thiswildheart

But There’s Still More Work to Be Done

While millennial dads are changing the narrative of what it means to be a father, it is only the tip of the iceberg. It takes a certain amount of privilege to be able to work from home, have paid time off, or be able to afford a therapist. If anything, both millennial men and women are realizing a lot still needs to change both inside and outside of the home to make parental involvement more accessible to all. 

For example, even with dads being more present than ever, moms still carry a lot of the mental load for their families. From managing the family calendar to coordinating play dates to keeping our education system afloat with hours of unpaid labor, women are expected to keep everything running smoothly. And despite all of this, many men still turn down paternity leave even when it’s offered or resist signing up for the school PTA. Thankfully, these issues are being talked about more and more, so more change can happen.

I know it’s not only my daughter who benefits from her millennial dad (he’s less likely to cry when she gets a shot at the doctor)—I benefit, too. I’m able to be a mother, work, and fulfill my passions all because there is a generation of men out there who are willing and able to share the load figuratively—and literally—my husband is much better at doing the laundry. 

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