The pandemic has unearthed many unaddressed challenges for families—many of which have disrupted cultural norms and highlighted the need for gender equity. The United States is experiencing a reckoning in caregiving and what it means for children, their parents, and caregivers. Historically, women have been expected to serve as primary providers of “caretaking” work. However, now more than ever is the time to explore a big piece of the care work puzzle that isn’t always discussed: men.
A series of reports on men and care work by the New America Foundation reveals how men can and should factor into the future of caregiving not only as fathers but also as professional caretakers. A nationally representative survey found that men overwhelmingly value care work, want to participate, and even lead. But the lack of paid family leave and stigmas faced in the workplace prevent men from being the kinds of fathers and sons they want to be. Black male caregivers and fathers face particular structural and systemic barriers that fuel the false “absent Black father” narrative — painting them as men who are disinvested in their children’s lives. This is simply not true.
Dwayne Curry, program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is one who strives to dismantle this stereotype. In his Culture of Health Blog post, Dwayne shares his story as a Black father of four children and the importance of being active in his kid’s lives. He writes, “It is so important and powerful for a child to have a father figure. I see that my kids’ view of fatherhood is being shaped by what they see in me.”
The blog also accompanies his incredibly powerful spoken word piece in which Dwayne illustrates how a parent’s love “cannot be expressed with words. It must be shown.” He authentically explains his goal is to “reach an ideal as a father that [he] couldn’t actually see as a child.” This pushes him to be an example of what a good Black father looks like.
Read Dwayne’s story here. To read more about the experiences of other men of color who take pride in caring for their children and families, check out New America’s report A Portrait of Caring Black Men.