We have all seen the professional athlete, who after spending thousands of hours of practice as a kid in the backyard with his dad, says, “Hi Mom,” to the camera while being interviewed on TV. For years, our fathers have taken a backseat to their female partners, giving her the special recognition ahead of his own.
It wasn’t until 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day—a full 50 years after our mothers received such a recognition. It took another six years before President Richard Nixon signed it into permanent law. This year, we will celebrate Father’s Day on June 17th.
But what do we really know about these men? While most of us think very highly of our own fathers, you might be surprised to know how great fathers are in general.
- There are an estimated 70.1 million fathers in the United States, according to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. The average age of a first-time father is 27.4. First time mothers, in comparison, are three years younger.
- A father’s traditional role as the main breadwinner has changed drastically since 1970. Then, about half of the families relied on income from the father only. Today, that number has been reduced to 25 percent of households where the father is the only income and 66 percent of families have dual income earners.
- Speaking of bringing home the bacon, an estimated 52 percent of fathers are the primary grocery shopper in the family—up 10 percent since 1995. Studies show 75 percent of dads think they are more involved with their children than their fathers were. Today, 14 percent of men get some paid paternity leave. Yes, that is still a low number, but paternity leave was unheard of just a generation ago.
- In 2010, stay-at-home fathers reached the all-time high of 2.2 million men. While high unemployment rates contributed to this number, 21 percent of men reported that they are home primarily as caregivers. This number has increased from just 5 percent of stay at home fathers in 1989 according to a study by Pew Research.
- It is estimated that 8 percent of children in the United States live in households headed by single fathers. That number is up from just 1 percent in 1960. Reportedly, single fathers have higher incomes, making them less likely than single mothers to live at or below the poverty level. According to a study on custodial parents, custodial fathers receive $2 billion in child support as compared to $19.5 billion received by custodial mothers.
- We all know that fathers determine the sex of their offspring by either passing on an X or Y chromosome. A Newcastle University study in 2008 shows that men inherit the tendency to have sons or daughters from their parents. Those with many brothers are more likely to have sons and those with several sisters are more likely to have daughters.
- While not recognized as a real syndrome by some medical professionals, Couvade Syndrome is experienced by a few men during their partner’s pregnancy. These reported sympathetic pregnancy symptoms include weight gain, morning sickness and altered hormone levels. Extreme cases include labor pains and postpartum depression.
- We can find some pretty amazing fathers in nature, too. Male seahorses get pregnant when their female counterpart deposits her eggs into his brood. The average seahorse has 100-200 babies. Hardhead catfish males carry their fertilized eggs in their mouth for 60 days, which keeps them from taking in any nourishment for two months. Male Emperor Penguins keep their eggs balanced on their feet and covered by their belly in order to protect them from the arctic temperatures. The penguins cannot hunt for food for 60-100 days until the eggs hatch and the females return.
- It is reported that in 2014, $12.5 billion was spent on Father’s Day. The average person spends $114 on their dad. While 52 percent of us are shopping for our fathers and stepfathers, 28 percent buy for their husbands, 9 percent for their sons and 4 percent for their grandfathers. The most popular gifts are cards, taking dad on a special outing, clothes, and gift cards.
- Father’s Day is now celebrated by several countries around the world. Many countries like our neighbor, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, India, Argentina and the Netherlands have followed the United States’ tradition of celebrating on the third Sunday in June. Portugal, Belgium and Spain celebrate their fathers on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th), while Australia, New Zealand and Sweden have chosen the first Sunday in September. Regardless of the day, we all want to give our fathers the recognition they deserve. ■