Opinion: Has “father time” changed since our father’s time?

Allan Wu
Allan Wu pictured with his dad (second from left)

As I sit here deliberating over which parenting topic to share this time, I cannot help but constantly ask myself whether the father’s role today has changed?  Furthermore, has this shift in expectations and responsibilities played a part in shaping the sort of father I aspire to become?  With that in mind, now seems like an opportune time to reflect on my own childhood experiences and the resulting perception of parenting responsibilities forged from them. 


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From my recollection, the role of the father and mother was more clear cut – the father would head to work while the mother would stay at home to raise the children.  This was how I was raised and pretty much every kid I knew too.  My father was a civil engineer and went to work every day Monday to Friday nine to five.  After work, he would return home where we would all have dinner together before heading our separate ways.  My brother and I would head to our rooms while our father would do his own thing as our mother would clean up and do the dishes.  This is the traditional family set up I knew growing up, and it seemed to work quite well. 

Allan Wu pictured with his father and brother

While there is nothing wrong with this expectation for the role of a father, I do wonder what is the driving force for fathers nowadays to be more involved with raising their children?  Fathers have always been able to subscribe to a “hands off” approach and minimise the diaper changes, late night feedings, baby baths, etc.  However, it is this shift from a preconceived (and accepted) norm that has led me to ponder as to why the dads of today have chosen to assume a larger role in caring for children besides just “bringing home the bacon.” 

Growing up, I didn’t spend much time with my father.  He was either busy working or he simply preferred to do his own thing.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times that he actually did decide to play with me outside.  I never harboured any ill-will or resentment with this lack of attention and have even come to realise that my own childhood experience played a role in how I would want to spend time with my children.  Sure, I could have easily accepted the baton from my father and not endeavour to spend more time with my children, but I realised soon after they kids were born that I was not built that way. 

The Wu family gathering

Looking back, I sometimes wonder how much children can remember during their early years (thank goodness for photos and videos!).  It was truly a magical time to watch these little beings come into their own as they find their place in this world one step at a time… literally.  I tell my friends to treasure these early years because it all inevitably comes to an end once they become more “self aware” when they discover their own interests and pursuits in the form of hobbies, sports, boys, girls, internet, school work, etc.  I must confess I do sometimes lament watching how fast my children have grown up.  However, I take solace in knowing that I had a good run with them. 

As a father, we already get the benefit of the doubt should we choose to not spend much time with our children.  Still, it’s always nice for me to see fathers going above and beyond to prioritise their involvement and interaction with their children, especially when they could easily slough it off to the mother, relative, grandparent, etc.  When my children were born, I used to believe I wanted to do as much as I could for them.  Ironically, it’s only when they are now older that I realise I was really just doing it more for myself where father time today has taken on new meaning and new purpose.  And on that note, it’s time to wrap this up and head out to watch Jonas’ basketball game!