Shout Out To Dads - A Look At The History Of Father’s Day, Dads Then And Now, And How You Can Celebrate The Amazing Dads In Your Life

11 min read MAY 24, 2024

Dads then vs dads now…

If you typed the above phrase into a search engine, it’s likely that you’d be flooded with a plethora of memes highlighting weekend afternoons in the early 80’s where children held flashlights for their dads as they worked on the family car (we’ll leave any dramatic/traumatic yellings to the meme factory).

It’s seemingly common to joke about these former years and the outdated role of fathers, but I still believe those dads deserve due credit, honor, and celebration, for they’ve paved the way for the fathers we see/know today.

Overall, dads teach us, through the good, bad, and ugly, to learn, grow, and keep pushing on.

If they hadn’t, we may not have been able to witness and appreciate the vast changes in fatherhood over the past 50+ years.

Yes, today’s dads, for the most part, are fairly different from those of yesterday.

It’s proven that dads today are home more often, they’re more involved, less stressed and depressed, more loving, more emotionally connected to their children…well, they’re just more!

And, this “more” when it comes to fathers is something we’ve seen is just as crucial as that of a mother’s love, care, and affection in the lives of babies, toddlers, adolescents, teens, and adults.

But, did you know the occasion for honoring such efforts, involvement, and care weren’t even nationally recognized until a mere 52 years ago?

Thankfully, nowadays dads get a special day too, and in our time here, we’d like to explore the following:

- What took so long? Why was Father’s Day not nationally recognized until 1972?

- How have fatherly roles changed over the years?

- How can you honor and celebrate the dads in your life this Father’s Day?

The History Of Father’s Day

On June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington, the very first Father’s Day celebration occurred in the United States.

Unfortunately, it took some time for the nation as a whole to join in this state's celebratory endeavors.

In fact, Mother’s Day celebrations were a routine, and presidentially proclaimed, occurrence long before dads were equally recognized.

In 1909, Mother’s Day was observed by 45 states, and by 1914 “President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution that made the second Sunday in May a holiday in honor of “that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America.””

Retailers were said to have been fully on board with this proclamation as the occasion brought great potential for profit.

But, when it came to discussions of fathers receiving the same recognition, retailers (specifically florists) commented negatively on the suggestion, even stating that “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”

Sounds harsh, right?

Well, as it turns out, many dads of the day didn’t exactly agree with the prompts for celebration either.

After the 1910 Father’s Day celebrations in the state of Washington, between the years of 1916-1924 presidents Wilson and Coolidge sought to have other states join in this day of dad honoring, but those efforts fell flat, even being “disdained” by fathers across our nation.

Some historians have explained that dads felt as if such a holiday, mirrored after a celebration for mothers, was an attempt to domesticate manliness.

I mean, think about it, men were the providers during this day and time. Especially in the early 20th century, men dominated American society, and honoring their contributions with flowers and gifts, those which they’d likely be paying for anyways, was something seen as practically insulting by most dads of the day.

So, between 1920-1930, a movement arose which sought to find middle ground, a way both mothers and fathers could be recognized for their contributions and sacrifices regularly made for the betterment of their families.

During this time, the idea of Parent’s Day was suggested, a day which would replace both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for a single celebratory calendar day which recognized the contributions of both parents.

But, as the Great Depression gripped our nation, retailers quickly squashed such notions, even stepping up their efforts to make Father’s Day a separate and annual occurrence, a time when families would (hopefully) purchase gifts for dad.

Eschewing the former Mother’s Day mirroring, retailers promoted Father’s Day as a “second Christmas” for men, suggesting gift items such as socks, ties, hats, tobacco, sporting goods, etc.

Shortly after this time, however, World War II began, and many of our nation’s brave men found themselves away from their families, fighting in this horrific battle overseas.

This, of course, prompted many to again rally behind the notion that men deserved a national day of celebration and honor.

Some advertisements even argued that “celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort.”

And, these ads were highly effective!

By the time World War II ended, though Father’s Day was not yet celebrated by national or presidential proclamation, most of the United States recognized the need for a nationwide observance.

But, it wasn’t until 1972, when President Nixon signed a proclamation to make Father’s Day a federal holiday, that dads were officially, nationally, recognized each and every year on the third Sunday in June.

And, while we’re all thankful for this nationally proclaimed day where dads can rightfully be honored, I think it goes without saying, both dad’s day and the role of dads in general have changed a lot over the years.

Dads Then, Dads Now

For many years, fathers were the primary breadwinners of the family.

Dads were also seen as the family disciplinarian, and they ultimately were thought to be solely responsible for the moral and religious education of their children.

Today, however, the role of dad has changed.

And, in many ways, the type of employment opportunities that became commonplace in America with both industrialization and urbanization played a huge role in the onset of this change.
Initially, as factory employment became popular, this meant many dads took on jobs which kept them away from their families more than ever before.

During this time, abandonment also became common, which led to an increase in single moms as the leaders of many households.

Then, for roughly 50 years leading up to the 21st century, the economic role of women vastly changed as well, which led to another shift in the family dynamic.

Between 1948-2001, the number of working women in America nearly doubled, and as women began contributing financially, this lessened the amount of support needed by fathers.

These changes, combined with a rise in infertility, divorce, and remarriage, served to drastically redefine the role of fathers all across the country, yet again.

Now that fathers weren’t carrying the entire financial weight of the family, commonly working an excessive amount of hours each week, away from their children and partners, the following was evidenced.

With these changes in the dynamic of the American family, fathers:

- had higher levels of self esteem
- had reduced levels of depression and anxiety
- were less hostile
- were more easily able to cope with the ever-changing landscape of adulthood
- were happier and experienced a greater level of intimacy with their partners
- were more active in caregiving roles, especially in the case of their male children

And, as you can imagine, as fathers were less stressed, depressed, anxious, hostile, and overworked, they were able to be more present and positive in the home, so their families benefited greatly!

One thing researchers have clearly identified today is that fathers are a crucial component of the family.

It was once believed that a mother’s love, affection, and care was needed most in the lives of children, but we now know that this is just as true for fathers.

Experts have found “fatherly love helps children develop a sense of their place in the world, which helps their social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning. [And] Children who receive more love from their fathers are less likely to struggle with behavioral or substance abuse problems.”

Then, yet another change in the role of fathers seen today has arisen due to rising divorce rates.

Why those rates have risen isn’t for me to decide, nor is it really pertinent to the role of fathers; however, what this does mean is today’s fathers often step into roles dads knew nothing of 100 years ago.

Today, many men step up to be a dad to children they ‘inherit’ through marriage.

Sometimes this involves a blended family, and sometimes a man becomes a dad the moment he says “I do.”

Personally, I think this speaks volumes to the changing roles of fathers, where men now (as we stated above) are more emotionally available for their children - biological, step, blended, and beyond!

Yesterday’s fathers were vitally important to their families. They worked hard, provided, instilled values, and valued discipline in life as a whole. But, these things, though needed, often left men feeling drained, stressed, and unable to emotionally, lovingly be there for their children.
Today’s fathers are just as important to their families. And, with emerging research, societal shifts in the workplace, and changing roles for men and women, these dads are able to be there in a greater way for their families, recognizing how lastingly important their presence, care, and connection is to their children.

Truly reflecting on this shift gives even greater cause for celebration as Father’s Day approaches this year.

Dads are better connected.

Dads are more active or involved in the lives of their children today (coaching, teaching, playing, talking, training, etc).

Dads today are more readily available and able to show love to their children.

Dads are more present in the home.

Dads are more affectionate.

So…dads deserve to be celebrated too!

5 Ways To Celebrate Dad This Father’s Day

We’ve established that both dads and the Father’s Day holiday have undergone a grand shift over the course of the last hundred years or more, and if you’re privileged to have a dad, grandpa, uncle, or other father figure in your life who’s poured himself into either providing, caring for, connecting, teaching, or just showing up for you and/or your children, then you have cause for celebration.

So, to close things out here today, we’d like to look at a few ways you can do just that…celebrate and honor the dads in your life!

1- Tell Him

It’s likely due to the sentimental nature of mothers, but it sure seems we tell mom how much we love and appreciate her far more often than dad.

Likewise, we also tend to relive joyous memories with mom more frequently than we do with dad.

So, this Father’s Day, make a conscious effort, either in word or possibly even a handwritten note or card, to tell your dad how much you love him, how much you appreciate him, all the ways/reasons you appreciate/love him, and even seek to share some of your favorite memories of things you’ve done with him.

For instance, one picture my dad still proudly shares today is one I found and gave to him.

I was roughly 5 or 6 years old in the picture, and I’m standing in our driveway holding a line of bluegill freshly caught from a routine afternoon of fishing with my dad.

Upon giving him the picture, I recalled many fond fishing trips, but I actually couldn’t remember the outing specific to the picture.

So, he happily, even laughingly, proceeded to tell me about that exact trip.

Just reliving those moments together, coupled with the picture, brought him so much joy.

So, seek to relive those happy, fond memories with your dad. You could even plan to include some of his favorite music, or memories of music you listened to together, as you relive some of these fond moments.

And, seek to let him know how much you love and appreciate him by telling him…specifically.

2- Plan A Barbecue

Is your dad king of the grill?

You can honor your dad this Father’s Day by gathering your siblings, his friends, your family, and asking dad to showcase his talent.

Enjoy the afternoon or evening together around great food (you can obviously help prepare here to ensure dad isn’t doing all the work), great company, many laughs, and lots of love…all while letting dad know his grilling skills are top notch!

3- Friendly Family Competition

Dads can typically be pretty competitive.

If your dad is one of these typical dads (competitive), plan a fun competition for the whole family this Father’s Day.

Maybe you can plan a series of games, a tournament, outdoor fun, indoor games, whatever best suits your dad.

Just be sure to bring your ‘a’ game and gift your dad a healthy, happy, fun time!

4- Lend A Hand

As an adult, one thing I’ve come to see in my dad is - whether he likes to ask for it or not - he needs a little more help around the house than he once did.

So, when I visit, I like to help him tackle any to-dos that require an extra set of hands.

By lending a hand, you’re not only helping dad out, you’re also spending quality time with him.

I can say from experience, helping my dad with projects around his house has truly meant a lot to him, and I’d venture to say your dad would appreciate similar gestures.

This communicates care and concern for your dad, but it also serves to let him know you appreciate him as you look for ways to ‘give back’ after all he’s given to you.

5- Mini Vacation Or Camping Trip

Go fishing, go to a park, go camping, spend a few days at the beach…

If you don’t know what your dad would prefer, find out, then plan a getaway with your father.

Use this trip to give your dad a break, spend quality time together, and enjoy a change of scenery.

Dads work hard…so celebrate your dad this Father’s Day with some well deserved rest and relaxation on a mini vacation, all while using the time together to grow, learn, and bond with one another.

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