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The Tale of Modern Day Fatherhood

Updated: Jan 28

✦ So much has changed in the world in the past few decades. Technology has crept into every corner of our lives to dominate whereby people now tend to spend more time staring into a screen than talking to other human beings; words like “bad” and “sick” now denote positive rather than negative sentiment and attention spans have decreased dramatically to the point that a worrying number of people consume their news in bite-size portions in less than 280 characters!

What hasn’t changed in popular consensus is how important the role of the father is in the family dynamic, integral in providing a sense of safety and security, a grounding point and sound moral compass.

Fathers, as with mothers, are role models to their children and carry a huge responsibility as to how their children see and make sense of the world while promoting the growth of self-worth, love, tenderness, humour, compassion and strength. A father’s impact on the lives of his children is, undoubtedly, profound.

A father’s impact on the lives of his children is, undoubtedly, profound. Brilliant-Online
A Modern Dad, Etienne with daughter Victoria

That’s not to suggest there hasn’t been change and what now constitutes our perception of the traditional nuclear family differs even when compared to a decade ago. The father as breadwinner at the office all day while the stay-at-home-mother cooked, cleaned and tucked the children up in bed each evening is very much a thing of the past. As opportunities have evolved and progressed for women in the corporate world so has the ability for the traditional role dynamic of parenting to shift.

Conversely, being a father nowadays looks and feels very different to how it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Dads have always come in all different manner of shapes and sizes but, as society and attitudes have progressed, so has the definition of fatherhood and being a dad.

Now, fathers can be single or married, step-parents, adoptive; with gay marriage becoming legalised in many parts of the world, adoption is now a viable choice for LGBTQ parents.

Pop Culture Papas

Aristotle’s mimesis suggested that art imitates life so it is no great surprise to see this shifting dynamic of what constitutes a modern day father reflected in a variety of pop culture concepts such as movies and TV. This is arguably best illustrated in the hugely popular mockumentary-style family sitcom “Modern Family”. Heralded for its positive portrayal of LGBTQ families on TV, two of the central characters in the show are gay married couple Cameron and Mitchell, who adopt a daughter.

I love this video. The advice on "Peeranting"

They demonstrate the normal challenges and frustrations that any couple encounter when raising a child (the tantrums, the choosing one parent favourably over another to curry favour then switching, etc) but also showcase how modern day fatherhood has developed to incorporate values and prejudices that same-sex couples have to contend with or are perhaps more atuned to such as acceptance, tolerance, difference, inclusivity. Of course, that isn’t to suggest that the traditional male-female parent dynamic is remiss of these values but it does demonstrate how the very definition of fatherhood has evolved and grown into something much broader, accepting and, ultimately, wonderful!

the modern father concept has changed for the better
The modern father concept has changed for the better

There are many other TV shows and movies that explore this dynamic but a couple worthy of note are: the “The Bravest Knight”, an animated fairy tale about a gay dad recounting his adventures to his adopted daughter; the 1996 film “The Birdcage” where the late Robin Williams and Nathan Lane play a gay couple about to meet the conservative parents of their son’s new fiancé; 2018’s “Ideal Home” where Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd play a gay couple who suddenly find themselves raising a young boy when a long lost grandson arrives on their doorstep; and Swedish film “Patrik, Age 1.5” where a gay couple decide to adopt and believe they will soon be welcoming a toddler only to find out their new addition to the family is actually a teenager of 15, not 1.5, and, worse still, a homophobe!

Stay home!

In recent years we have seen an uptake in the number of fathers who opt to stay at home so as to spend more time with their children. As a flexible working dynamic takes us increasingly from the boardroom into the living room, it is now much more commonplace and socially acceptable for one or both parents to work from home or combine a hybrid home-office approach, something that COVID-19 only exacerbated of course.

As previously alluded to, the changing role of women in the workplace has had a profound effect on the role of dads and how they now integrate into the family. Nowadays it is far more common to see the woman chasing career progression while the man stays at home, be he working or otherwise. Also, post-childbirth, it is no longer just the mother who takes maternity leave as paternity leave has become far more accessible to fathers in recent years – indeed in the United States, the amount of parental leave is the same for men and women.

As a result of more dads being home they are increasingly becoming more entrenched in routine family duties – changing nappies, doing the laundry, cooking meals, running the kids from A to B and general housekeeping chores are no longer consigned merely to mothers as dads step up to the plate. The popular American tag “soccer mom” now very much has an equivalent of “soccer dad”!

Greetings from Etienne Regin with daughter Victoria in Luxembourg. Translation French to English: Hello everyone. I think modern fatherhood is not being defined in gender roles and doing things like changing diapers, cooking and cleaning because… it simply has to be done. Happy Father’s Day to all fathers. May you enjoy this beautiful journey as much as I do.

We must also pay heed to the fact that as society and attitudes have evolved, so has the behavioural role of a father. Traditionally, dads were widely construed as the disciplinarian of the family, the stern one who would dish out the punishment when a child misbehaved. Remember the phrase that many mother’s would often threaten their naughty children with back in the day, “Just wait until your father gets home”? That dynamic has changed and men in general now exhibit are a far more sensitive side, particularly evident with their children where the values of understanding, nurturing and care are fundamental.

As widespread society and attitudes continue to evolve so do we as people in the way we behave, which extends to parenting. The role of a father is a complex and evolving concept - it arguably always has been and always will be. This Father’s Day we at Brilliant salute all the wonderful dads out there, no matter their shape or size, status, sexual orientation, etc. And to all the dads that are no longer with us we send genuine respect via a moment of pause and reflection.

Happy Father's Day!


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