Go to the Father’s Day gift section of any shop and you’ll see iterations of the same items: beer steins, BBQ aprons, and power drills.
And while there are many dads who won’t turn their noses up to pint and a steak, these types of popular gifts are remnants of bygone stereotypes of dads as the handyman, the grill-master, the parent who sits and has a cold one while the other parent does, well, the parenting.
Today’s dads don’t look like that, so why do their gifts?
Recent research found that Canadian dads are more involved than ever before, ranking seventh out of 22 countries on a measure of how parents share child care responsibilities. Dads are also staying home with their kids, making efforts to connect with other fathers, playing a more proactive role in parenting, and doing more housework.
WATCH: Study busts the deadbeat dad stereotype. Story continues below.
This Father’s Day, we think it’s time to recognize dads for being all-in (and all the stress and burnout that comes with it). So we canvassed a bunch on what would make them feel appreciated.
Skip the power drill, and give dad this instead:
1. Give him: down time
It’s 2019 and time to retire the idea that dads have it “easy.”
A 2017 survey of working dads found that 72 per cent feel emotionally and physically worn out. Another study found that dads are just as likely as moms to feel depressed. And in 2016, researchers found that a dad’s stress can affect their child’s development.
So any gift that could help a dad chill out a bit will go a long way. Get him an Adirondack chair for the front porch and give him time to sip his morning coffee there. If he does the daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, give him a week off from the daily commute.
Or, give him a day to catch up on his reading, his sleep, his crosswords, his interests ... whatever helps him relax.
2. Give him: recognition
Dads are often relegated by society to the role of “secondary parent.” Which. Is. Bull. Shit.
Not only are we well past the era of calling dads “babysitters” when they watch their own kids, but studies have shown that dads’ brains respond in the same ways as mothers’ brains when dads care for their children. Plus, not all kids have a dad AND a mom (a.k.a., what society tends to view as the primary parent). Some have two dads, both of whom work hard as parents, and some full-time dads are single.
So, just as moms want to feel “seen” on Mother’s Day, dads deserve that same recognition for all they do.
Give him the same social media love that moms gets on Mother’s Day (they notice the radio silence when you don’t). Write an appreciative note in a card that says you notice how hard they work. And don’t skimp on the homemade gifts from kids — dads love those, too!
3. Give him: health
Moms aren’t the only ones who let their health slide after they have kids. In fact, a recent review found that men experience a greater decline in physical activity than women after becoming parents.
Some of the barriers faced by new dads include new family responsibilities, guilt, lack of social support, work and scheduling constraints.
So, giving a dad some time (or a kick in the butt) to exercise is a great gift. Give him a gift card for new running shoes, get him a golf lesson, sign him up for indoor rock-climbing or summer softball, or encourage him to take that dance class he keeps talking about.
Or, get him a jogging stroller so he can exercise and bond with his child at the same time!
It could benefit you, too — researchers have found that on days when dads exercise more than they usually would, a couple is less likely to argue.
4. Give him: a chore break
Many dads have a to-do list of household chores slowly eating away at their souls. And, they probably don’t exactly fantasize about sunny Sundays spent cleaning the eavestroughs and installing baby gates, even though they want these tasks done as much as you do.
Plus, not every dad is a handyman. If you’re financially able, hire someone to clean out the garage and baby-proof for him, or do it yourself if you can. Pay a neighbourhood teen to mow the lawn while he puts his feet up and tells him not to miss the corners.
And remember it’s not just odd jobs that fall to dads. Many are also the family chef. Statistics Canada found that dads who help around the house are more likely to be the primary cook, and reported that 60 per cent of Canadian dads are involved in cooking daily meals.
So, give him a break from the stove with a meal-prep service. Or, encourage his talents with a cooking class — for adults (because making spaghetti at 5:30 isn’t exactly the most enjoyably culinary experience). Encourage him to test his new recipes on your next date night! Win-win.
5. Give him: time with friends
Sometimes, a beer is more than a beer.
Social isolation is common in new parents. And supports are often aimed at moms for good reason — historically, they tend to be the ones who to stay home or take leave after a baby is born.
But not only could this trend be shifting with dads being able to take advantage of shared parental leave, but parenthood can be isolating for new dads, and they need support, too, experts have noted. NPR reports that one of the biggest obstacles faced by stay-at-home dads is making social connections.
So help a dad out and encourage him to socialize with other grown humans. Send him out for a night with his buddies. Plan a dad playdate sans kids (paint-ball could be a good way to work out out some of that tantrum-phase frustration).
WATCH: Winnipeg dads start a synchro team. Story continues below.
And encourage him to spend time with his own dad, while you’re at it! A night of sipping scotch with the old man could be as restorative as a pub night with his pals.
6. Give him: time to reconnect with you
The bad news? Parenting is hard, and it affects your relationship.
The good news? In a 2017 survey, the majority of dads said all they want for Father’s Day is time with their partner. Just over 80 per cent said they’d choose time with their loved one over workout gear or new headphones. And another 35 per cent said they just want a night off from the kids — together.
This Father’s Day, give your partner a date night. If you can get a babysitter and go out, super. If not, there are still plenty of ways to have a low-key but romantic date night at home (re: boozy or non-boozy board games).
Give him a smooch and tell him he’s the best dad ever ... then try to forget about the kids until they wake up.
Happy Father’s Day!