Studies show that dads are still seen as the “fun parent,” while moms do most of the child-rearing, driving and lunch-making grunt work.
Red Deer dad Jason Steele figures this is likely why the approaching Father’s Day holiday on Sunday comes in a long second behind Mother’s Day — in terms of children making an effort to honour their parental units.
While moms get appreciative bouquets or breakfasts in bed on their May holiday, dads are lucky to get a humorous Father’s Day card that pokes fun at their couch-potato habits, rounded dad-bods, or lack of handyman skills.
But that’s OK with Steele — as long as the card also contains some nice sentiments from his daughter Kati.
Although Kati recently turned 18 years old, Steele remembers with fondness the hand-drawn cards he received from his little girl in days gone by.
“I really liked those cards with the badly drawn pictures on them — or the strange crafts that she brought home from school in Grade 1, where they’re barely glued together, but there’s a lot of heart to them.
“You knew she took the time,” he recalls.
While many children of divorced parents are growing up without a father at home, Steele feels fortunate to have Kati living with him, largely because he resides closer to her rural school-bus route than her mom does.
He says his amicable relationship with his ex-wife, Shona Sutley, means his daughter can go back and forth between their houses whenever she pleases.
Back when Kati was a baby, Steele admits he handled less of the diaper-changing duties. This is in line with a study that shows moms are still shouldering more of the workload at home, while dads spend more of their off-work hours playing with their kids or relaxing.
Even in families with both parents in the workforce, the division of labour at home remains unequal, according to a survey of two-income families by the Pew Research Center.
Interestingly, most of the fathers surveyed felt they shared home and child responsibilities equally with their wives.
The mothers believed they did more — and it’s the moms’ perceptions that were supported by rigorous data collection in which people kept diary entries of how they spent their time.
While the study suggests today’s fathers have more interaction with children than dads of the past, Steele still sees a lot of examples within his own generation of moms being more involved with the kids. But he believes this is slowly changing.
“I have friends that have close to equal roles … and I think with the next generation it may very well be equal, with longer paternity leaves helping give us more equality…”
Steele admits his father, a Red Deer County farmer, probably only got a Father’s Day card from him whenever the holiday wasn’t entirely lost in the busy-ness of spring planting.
While Steele — a local actor and support worker at The Hub on Ross — remembers his father working a lot while he was growing up, he says, “My dad is the most supportive and amazing guy.
“Whenever I’m busy with acting, he comes and mows my lawn, or he will come and plow my driveway in the winter. I really appreciate that… That kind of support is huge.”
His father, Ken Steele, says he tried to be involved with all of his four kids while they were young, but during the agriculturally intense months, “it was my wife who would have to carry the load, drive them to ballgames… As a dad, I missed out on some of that.”
As his children became adults, Ken said he still tries to be there for them as much as possible.
“As a parent, you always want to help your children out so they have an easier time than you did. After all, our parents did that for us — they helped us out as much as they could.”
Both Ken and his son, Jason, feel it’s the time spent between parents and children that really matters — whether it’s a shared meal on Father’s Day or any other day.