The first person who came to mind when I was asked to write about “modern dads” was Jeff Hay.
Most of you know him better as DJ Haymaker.
My wife and I took our kids to one of Hay’s “Family Dances” at Parkinson Rec Centre.
Hay also hosts Daddy-Daughter Dances, which is something I’ll no doubt become intimately acquainted with as the father of three girls under seven years old.
Anyone who organizes a daddy-daughter day must know a thing or two about parenting.
My hunch was correct.
“I could talk for hours about this,” he said during our interview.
It’s a fascinating topic, too, and something that appears to be gaining attention given Kelowna’s changing demographics and economy.
We all know about the challenges Okanagan families face when it comes to cost of living.
At the school our kids attend, you’ll meet parents who have changed their schedules because it’s nearly impossible for one breadwinner to pay for a mortgage, child care and other necessities.
It’s meant parents are working from home (or trying to work). Others take night shifts and tag off when dad comes home and mom goes to work.
Many of us are sacrificing annual holidays, second cars, cable TV or salon appointments to make ends meet.
Our family does all of that and more.
Hay says embrace it all, because you’re getting more in return.
His career path “allowed a great freedom to go on field trips. To volunteer at the school, especially when the kids were younger.”
Other than 110 DJ’ing events a year, he’s also completed a master’s degree in counselling psychology working with clients at Third Space Mind in the Landmark 2 building.
Hay’s favourite space, however, might be alongside his kids on school field trips.
With a flexible schedule, and a wife who works full-time as a high school teacher, Hay is free to spend more time with his kids than most might.
“I see the kids off every morning,” he says. “I’m here most of the time after school for them. … In terms of work-life balance, it’s a different role.”
But it’s a role that has increased steadily in Canada for the past 40 years.
It’s not just mom who sacrifices her career to raise the children anymore.
According to Statistics Canada, stay-at-home fathers accounted for 1 in 70 families in 1976.
Today, that number is closer to 1 in 10.
Yes, there are a lot of us dads out there faced with a new reality.
When I lost a job, we had serious decisions to make.
Then, when our third child arrived, it made more sense for me to stay home with the kids and have my wife work full-time.
The change has presented its challenges. I know the two years after my job loss I battled depression.
I tried to do everything: cook, clean, raise kids, work…
While that’s nothing new to generations of mothers, it’s something new for dads. Friends who find themselves in similar situations happily admit it’s about time men faced those problems.
Joe Fries is a Penticton father of two, and said his mom “carried the mail, and everything else” when he was growing up.
“The parenting expectations placed on dads are much higher now than they used to be, and rightfully so,” he said.
Still, with that added responsibility, how are men maintaining their sense of self?
My friend Sanj Juneja is a successful entrepreneur who lives in Atlanta. He suggested you don’t change who you are because you have kids.
And, he added with emphasis, don’t listen to people who tell you it’s impossible.
“Do everything that you used to do prior to kids,” he said, through a Facebook message. “If you can incorporate your kids into your daily lives, they truly become a part of one's self. If you enjoyed traveling to remote destinations, then continue to do so with your kids. You don't ‘have to go on a Disney cruise’ because that is what society deems a kid-appropriate vacation.”
Still, are we as men different after kids?
My friend Sean Dawson says that while he notices vast differences between the Sean Dawson before kids, he doesn’t miss him.
“I miss the things Sean-before-kids had time to do,” he said. “But, no, he was an inferior version to this rock of a provider you see before you today. I’m more patient than I was. Kids think we dads can do anything, and sometimes we believe it, too, which is nice.”
If only there was someplace men could talk about being a 21st-century dad.
Wait ... what? There is? But it’s in San Antonio, Texas?
Hay urged me to attend Dad 2.0, a three-day conference that talks about all things fatherly. It’s aimed at bloggers, artists, and entrepreneurs – and the brands and businesses eager to reach them.
This year it’s in Texas, but it travels across the United States.
“It talks about the changing roles of fathers,” Hay said. “Our dad’s dad, to be father of the year back then, you just had to show up, throw a ball once in a while and make sure there was food on the table. Whereas now, that’s the bare minimum. You’ve got to be involved.”
Really, it wasn’t that long ago men were roaming the halls outside the delivery room. That’s unheard of today.
We’re better for it, Hay said. Eventually, we will drop the gender references attached to parenting altogether.
Moms will be free to pursue their careers; dads won’t feel like they’re “not manly enough” because they can braid hair and bake muffins.
It’ll just be “parents” raising kids.
“For a lot of dads, they do want to be a more central figure,” he said. “It’s not mom stuff anymore.”
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.