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Today's fathers do more around the home

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Published:   |   Updated: June 16, 2013 at 02:53 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Today's fathers know best:

You take a bigger role in bringing up baby, in raising children and teens. You don't come home from work and plunk down on the couch and read the newspaper sipping a high-ball while the wife cooks dinner and the kids are out of sight.

You change diapers, take turns in the midnight feedings; you drive your children to school, soccer practice; you play catch and dolls. At times, the chores are endless, it seems.

“We share everything,” said Brian Barnes, 40 of St. Petersburg, the father of Aidan 9, and twins, Connor and Cassandra, 4. “That's what you do.”

He and his wife, Marisa, 38, brought the children on Father's Day to tour the U.S. Coast Guard tall ship Eagle, docked at the Port of St. Petersburg on Sunday morning.

“He does the majority of the cooking at home,” Marisa said, nodding to Brian.

A lot has changed over the course of a few decades, Brian Barnes said.

“My mom and dad were of a different generation,” he said. His father might not have gotten up to feed the baby, change diapers or clean up upchucks.

Social scientists say something is changing with today's young fathers. By their own accounts, by their wives' testimony and according to studies and statistics, more men are doing more around the house, from packing school lunches and doing laundry to getting up in the middle of the night with a screaming infant.

For dads in their 20s and 30s, being an involved father is part of their identity. They blog about changing diapers, they chat nonchalantly with colleagues about breastfeeding, and they trade recipes for baby food while working out with guys at the gym.

Part of why dads are doing more around the house may be that women are doing more in the workplace. A study from the Pew Research Center this month found that mothers are the breadwinners in a record 40 percent of families. At the same time, the number of stay-at-home dads is twice what it was 10 years ago — though still a relatively small number at 176,000. And in two-thirds of married couples with children under 18, both parents work, according to the U.S. Census.

George Lehr, 32, of St. Petersburg said he was out of a job for a while, and his wife, Donna, 33, a school teacher, was the sole breadwinner. He became the stay-at-home dad until he was able to land a job as a police officer in Bradenton.

“As a society, we have grown out of the model of fathers being the breadwinners and the mother staying home,” he said. The couple strolled down First Avenue Southeast in downtown St. Petersburg on Sunday morning, with 4-year-old Shelby in tow and 7-month-old Harper strapped to a carrier, harnessed to George's chest.

The chores and duties are split “pretty equally,” he said.

As working moms increasingly become the norm, and as their financial contributions become more critical, they're doing less cleaning and cooking, studies say. A Pew study released in March shows that since 1965, fathers have increased the amount of time they spend on household chores from four hours to 10 hours a week.

Women still do more, but as dad's share goes up, mom's goes down: In the same time period, mothers reduced their housework from 32 hours a week to 18. Dads have also tripled the amount of time they spend with children since 1965, even though moms still put in about six more hours a week with kids than dads overall, according to the Pew study.

Mark Allen, 39, and his wife, Angie, 34, of St. Petersburg, said they split child rearing chores down the middle. The couple walked along downtown St. Petersburg, heading toward the tall ship with 2-year-old Evan.

“He does more than most husbands,” Angie said.

“I think that's normal,” Mark said. “I can't imagine doing any less.”

Jeff Meister, 52, his four kids and wife, Jackie, 47, stood on the pier near the tall ship and posed for a cell phone family portrait Sunday morning.

He too does duties that maybe his father might not have done.

“I cook and clean and do all that other stuff,” Jeff said. Rearing Sam, 17; Ben, 15; Zachary, 9; and Hope, 7, takes teamwork, he said.

The family headed to Tropicana Field for the afternoon Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. Jeff, on Father's Day, did something a little extra, Jackie said.

“He made pancakes for everyone this morning,” she said. “That was his Father's Day.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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