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The Common Roles of Fathers (page 3)

By — University of Florida IFAS Extension
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Provider

While, in the last few decades, mothers of dependent children have entered the work force in unprecedented numbers, men continue to be identified as the primary "breadwinner" for the family. This is not always the case, as some fathers choose to be the primary providers of childcare, for example, while working out of the home or continuing their education. Also, with the increase in divorce and parenting outside of marriage, many mothers have become the main providers for their families.

American society still values the ability of the father to provide tangible resources (i.e., food, money, shelter, material possessions) for their children. For example, policies enforcing a non-resident father's payment of child support reflect such values. Also, an emphasis on responsible fatherhood has influenced social policy and social movements (e.g., the Promise Keepers) in the 1990s through the new millennium.

More than the provision of material things (e.g., income and resources) for children and families, a fathers provider role can be defined in terms of responsibility for care of the child. For example, fathers may help to make plans and arrangements for child care, even if they are not directly providing care. All too often, fathers have been led to believe that providing income and material support is all there is, their only way for caring for their family. That's unfortunate, because it discourages fathers from participating in all of the other parenting activities that many find so fulfilling, such as guidance, play, and school activities. Further, if a father values his role as a parent solely only in terms of providing material resources for the family, he may begin to feel trapped by his employment. Placing a bulk of the emphasis on a fathers being the provider can prevent his leaving unsatisfying, well-paying employment. He may not feel able to risk (even a temporary) decrease in family income while he looks for other employment opportunities.

Preparer

Fathers often see themselves as someone involved in preparing their children for life's challenges, as well as protecting them when necessary. They may talk with their child about family values and morals. Or, fathers may advise their teenagers about educational and employment goals as well as give advice (when asked for) about peer and romantic relationships. They may guide their child about how to behave in school and work to ensure their child's success in those areas. They may discuss the importance of being truthful, of giving an "honest day's work for an honest day's pay", or showing their affection to a spouse or partner.

Often, fathers see their relationship with their child blossom as the child grows into adolescence and adulthood. Some fathers even see this as the time to get involved in preparing their children for the "real world." In truth, fathers don't need to wait until their children are becoming adults in order to teach them important life lessons. Fathers can provide moral guidance and practical lessons all the way through their child's life. This kind of involvement strengthens the father-child relationship. Involvement helps build an ongoing partnership between father and child. Most important, through his influence on many areas of his child's life, a father teaches his child how to be a parent.

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