Dad 4.0: the role of the father figure in the modern family

Dad 4.0: the role of the father figure in the modern family

“My wife and I have agreed that for the coming years, her professional ambitions should take priority,” tweeted Rubin Ritten, the CEO of a well-known e-sales company specializing in clothing. With this statement, he triggered the questioning of the traditional family model, which has been widely accepted even in modern times. The former CEO did follow through with submitting his resignation and, beginning May 2021, will no longer be the head of this company–– one of the first in its sector on an international scale. What could have led a man with such an enviable career and professional success to become a revolutionary? The answer is simple: he wanted to devote more time to his family and give his wife more room to explore her career path by supporting her in her daily activities.

As years go by, generations evolve and customs change. With new times come new traditions, social behaviors, and educational practices. Let's consider the role that a father plays in a family today. We can see how and how much it has changed over time, moving from a patriarchal style modus operandi towards a new version of the "evolved" father. This sort of father communicates and makes decisions together with his wife, is there to raise his children, and is also capable of giving a firm “no” when necessary.

From a master-of-the-house-father to an assertive father

Fatherhood and the task the father has of educating his children have always been influenced by the cultural environment. It is certainly not easy to even summarize in a single article how the father figure has evolved over time; we can, however, try to analyze this concept within the time-span of the last century until today. The twentieth century has mainly been characterized by a classic image of the "model" family: within it, the father works, focuses on his career, and invests all his energy in meeting his family’s everyday need. He is the authority figure to whom every member of the family must show respect, and he is fearfully revered as the head of the family. The mother, on the other hand, is the "administrator" of the house, universally recognized and identified as the "angel of the hearth." She is considered the one who, throughout her life, silently and relentlessly devotes herself to taking care of her children and husband.

Though today this idea of a clear separation of responsibilities is still widespread, especially in countries with poorer education, some progress has been made. The father is not always considered a detached and marginal element with respect to the daily life of the family, but rather plays an integral part of it. The prevalence of women's freedom and the ever-growing need – for the survival of the family itself – to have two salaries coming in, has led more and more fathers to take care of household chores once considered exclusively for women. The father, therefore, is not only dedicated to work and the education of his children, but also actively participates in home maintenance and daily activities. More and more often we see fathers taking their children to school before going to work, doing the grocery shopping, taking their children to friends' parties, or taking care of dinner preparation and house cleaning. Clearly the role of the father is taking on a connotation that is no longer exclusively patriarchal, but assertive. Rather, he is both a father and a husband who, by definition, shows decisiveness, determination, and resolve.

Friends or teachers?

The family unit has slowly and continuously evolved, but evolution is not always synonymous with progress. In the past, in fact, the role of the parent was often exaggerated, leading children to believe that the head of the family’s decisions were “law” – and as such, unquestionable. Attentively observing and immersing ourselves in modern reality, we can easily see how, for fear of repeating the same mistakes of their predecessors, we have gone from one extreme to another. Parents who used to be authoritarian figures who "wrote the laws," now tend to take on the role of "friendly parent." This is a situation that often leads to the children being too free and also confused, not recognizing the parent as an educational figure that sets constructive boundaries. Rather children might see a parent as a peer who gives them plenty of space to make their own decisions and be independent. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle: the father figure who was like a “master of the house” in the past centuries often created many problems – not only in his own child’s character education– but also in the development of his child’s personality. Thus, his child is conditioned to generally take on a sort of submissive psychological state in decision-making. In the same way, being excessively compliant and permissive does not allow the child to be grounded and understand certain rules which could be useful for his or her personal growth and a good social life. Parents are therefore called upon to play a delicate role in education that oscillates between being a mentor and also dispensing constructive “no’s.”

Dad 4.0’s role

The topic is insidious and very controversial, but considering the way society and new family needs are evolving, there has been an abandonment of outdated ways of thinking and a rise in the view that the father should be more of a supporting figure and truly be present for his family at every stage of its development and growth. The father figure of the new generation is asked to adopt new strategies to handle the various challenges he may encounter and, like any challenge, to properly inform himself – through study and experience – in order to support his daily discernment. Who knows... maybe more and more "Ruben Rittens” will show themselves to the world, creating a domino effect that could revolutionize modern society forever. We certainly hope so!