Has the modern day father lost his grip?
The role of a dad has changed from 20 or 30 years ago. He isn’t relegated to the role of disciplinarian anymore and is enjoying a more nurturing role. Today we even have stay-at-home dads. But it still remains subjective whether fathering is now better or worse.
Sandra Wekesa @wekesa_sandra
Evenings are normally the favourite times for Francis Ngatia, he gets to play catch up with his last two daughters and tune in to their much-loved show Maria, but most important pray together.
One thing that he really admires and passionately holds on to is the fact that he gets to hang out with his children every time.
Just being able to be a helping hand to his children and walking with them through the journey of their lives gives him sheer satisfaction.
Looking back, Ngatia would have wished to grow up in the modern society. He recalls how life was tough for him while growing up and his old man constantly beating him and his siblings anytime they attempted to make mistake.
“It was always war in our house, especially if you were caught on the wrong.
Due to the fear instilled in us following constant beatings, we would always run to our rooms anytime the old man came home.
We looked up to him as the centre of authority and this had a big effect on how we approached him,” he recalls.
The 52-year-old father of four says although his upbringing was strict, it moulded him to be the responsible father that he is today.
“There is no way you would wait for your father to tell you how to do things. You would just find yourself being responsible enough to do them,” he recalls.
But through the 30 years that he has been a dad to his children, he has learnt so many things about fatherhood and mostly, to be present anytime they need him.
“I like that they get to watch with me something, and later dash into the rooms, this time not out of fear,” he says.
However, he says the contrast in different set-ups is what makes it impossible for today’s children to be the same as the previous generation in terms of character.
To him, the modern child has lost so many values compared to the traditional ones, but with it comes better fruits such as confidence.
“The only big problem today is technology and the evolution brought about by the modern society.
There is no way you can beat a child like the way we were beaten and that is what makes them have certain qualities, like being constantly reminded and being pushed to do even the necessary,” he says.
As a modern day father, Edgar Ngare says he has learnt to develop a relationship with his two-year-old daughter.
“Growing up, I was never so close with my father, but I decided to change the narrative when I got my first born.
I didn’t want her to grow up fearing me like the way I would see us behave. I just want her to know that I will always be there for her even when the going gets tough,” he says.
Although his daughter is currently at her terrible two’s, Edgar says he corrects her anytime she wrongs.
“I don’t go as hard as our parents always did, but I just make sure that she knows when she wrongs and since she is a child who always listens, she always avoid the same mistake,” he says.
A generation or two ago, dads were often shadowy figures who disappeared at dawn and returned at dusk.
Their role in the family was often relegated to breadwinner and disciplinarian (remember hearing “just wait until your father gets home”?). Thankfully, times have changed.
Today a lot of dads are actively participating in parenting— from coaching during childbirth, to parental leave, to simply being more involved and nurturing on a day-to-day basis.
According to Esther Mbau, a counselling psychologist at Kipepeo Training Consultants, modern day fathers are getting it right by actually developing a relationship with their children.
“It would actually be wrong to say that they are pampering them because a child needs their fathers’ love to develop,” she says.
She adds that a father can be a disciplinarian and at the same time be a friend to his child. “We cannot say the modern day father is failing because of being so close to his child.
You don’t have to seriously beat a child for them to learn, at times talking to them and letting them know the importance of being right and having good principals plays a major role in contributing to a responsible citizen,” she adds.
Additionally, fathers are role models by providing for their children, watching them, guiding them, listening, being available, and being a responsible husband.
Our ideas on masculinity has also changed according to sociologist Beatrice Njoroge. Fathers help in child care and are also spending more hours with their children.
According to Pew Research, traditional fathers worked an average of 46 hours per week. They spent four hours on housework and two-and-a-half hours on childcare.
Now, dads work slightly less at 43 hours, but do more than twice as much housework (10 hours) and three times as much childcare (eight hours).
Pew Research also found dads are now just as likely as mums (57 per cent) to say parenting is central to their identity. More than half (52 per cent) of working dads say it’s difficult to have a work-life balance.
Njoroge says whether fathering now is better is subjective. But, given her role as a sociologist, he believes the answer is yes.
“I think that children benefit when both parents can do love and nurturing and limit-setting,” she says.