The Changing Face of Fatherhood.
From divorced dads and older dads to gay dads and stepdads, the number of "alternadads" is growing. But whether your fathering style leans more toward Ozzy Osbourne or Ozzie Nelson, experts say the basics of parenting really are quite similar.
About a decade ago, while David and his wife were in the
process of getting a divorce, she unexpectedly died of heart-related problems.
Overnight, David was faced with perhaps the biggest challenge of his life:
Raising his 12-year-old daughter, Leslee, on his own.
In this era of "alternadads," fatherhood isn't always
what it used to be. Not only are there more single dads like David than ever
before, there are so many divorced dads, older dads, gay dads, and stepdads
that Norman Rockwell would have to adjust his depictions of American life if he
were working at his easel today.
In fact, "alternative" parenting may actually be
today's mainstream. Only a minority -- 38%, to be exact -- of children born in
the last three years of the 20th century will reach the age of 18 having lived
most of their lives with both of their biological parents.
"About 15 years ago, we began to see courts awarding more
men custody of their children in divorce actions," says Patricia A.
Farrell, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and author of How to Be Your
Own Therapist. "That turned the tide, and it's now more acceptable for
single men and gay men, for example, to raise children without wives."
In a Family Way
David soon found that untraditional fathering can work just as
well as the familiar "Leave it to Beaver"-style family life, although
it is brimming with challenges. "It's tougher being a single dad than a
single mom," he says. "Society looks at single motherhood as a natural
state. But when it looks at a single father, it says, 'The child belongs with
Like many single dads, David took his role as a do-it-all dad
seriously. He quit his job in the insurance industry and became a work-at-home
father -- currently as a developer of Internet sites, including one of his own
called Fatherworld.com. "Initially, I had tried to maintain a regular work
schedule in an office," he says, "but I was constantly running home to
cook meals or go to school functions. So I made a conscious decision to work at
Although he concedes that single parenthood is more difficult
than a two-parent household, he credits his successful childrearing to keeping
the lines of communication open with his daughter. "But she also always
understood that the parent has the final decision after issues are talked
out," he says.
Chips Off the Old Block
Although our culture tends to think of mothers as better
nurturers than dads, a University of Arizona study concluded that the depth of
the love that men feel for their children is no less than women have for their
offspring. And when problems occur with children, fathers may be the missing