Actively-involved dads make the world a better place

When fathers are actively involved in their family lives and take care of children, this is beneficial for everyone: men, children, women, employers and the entire society

Greater involvement of fathers in their family lives brings many positive impacts. Research has shown that active involvement in family life has a positive effect on men’s satisfaction regarding life in general, while at the same time it ensures a better relationship they have with their children and partners; this way, women are given more opportunities for equal participation in the labour market, as well as more leisure time, resulting in more opportunities for their realisation of their own goals in various fields in life. Due to greater involvement of fathers in their family lives, the gender roles of parents are less stereotypical, which results in children adopting such behaviour, as well. Observing the behavioural patterns of two cooperating parents affects a wide range of cognitive stimulation in children, bringing positive effects to their social, emotional and cognitive development. All this creates a family environment nurturing warm and rich personal relationships where both parents live a fulfilled and happy life. Men and women equally sharing their roles in childcare results in the entire society becoming fairer.

The meaning and understanding of active fatherhood today is quite different from what it was in the time of our fathers and grandfathers. The shift from a patriarchal family model, where men as fathers predominantly identified themselves with the role of the providers of material goods for the family, towards more active involvement of men in their family lives, childcare and participation in household chores began in the last decades of the 20th century, as the notion of fatherhood began to change both on the social level and on the individual level, where men started to transform their identities. Changes in the legislative in the field of parental care have made an important contribution to these shifts. Slovenia was the first European country to introduce one-year parental leave in 1986, while being the only country that already had 100% salary compensation at the same time. Slovenia was also the second country in Europe to introduce the possibility of sharing parental leave between both parents immediately after Sweden in 1976. Unfortunately, this provision was not really implemented in everyday life since during all these years the share of men who shared parental leave with their partners never exceeded 8%.

Men today (also according to a research among young people in Slovenia) are aware of the importance of their parental role, as well of the expectations for them to be more active as fathers; however, subjective views, opinions and perceptions often do not coincide completely with the actual implementation of the active fatherhood notion.

A vast majority of fathers today decide to take paternity leave, introduced already in 2003. However, when it comes to taking parental leave, many parents-to-be still believe that the care of a small child should primarily lie in the hands of a mother. During the child’s first year, when the mother is at home with the child and the father returns to work after a short paternity leave, the traditional division of chores between parents quickly occurs, usually establishing a “rule” for dividing childcare and household chores also in the future periods of family life. This type of family relationship dynamics often establishes the father as the so-called backup, secondary parent who in the family (and in the eyes of the employer) primarily plays the role of the provider for the family, which inhibits the full development of all the potentials of active fatherhood.