HOLLYWOOD - Dads are scrubbing toilets, collecting kids after school and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner like never before, a fundamental shift that holds the promise of happier marriages.
"Men and women might not be fully equal yet, but the rules of the game have been profoundly and irreversibly changed," a new paper analysing 40 years of family research concluded.
Over the past four decades, dads have taken on a lot more at home. The time they spend on child care and housework has doubled, according to the paper released yesterday.
It is this progress, not absolute parity, that matters because it offers proof of a deep change within US families, co-author Scott Coltrane said.
"There is an accumulation of evidence over the last decade that for people to have successful relationships they need to negotiate, whereas before they could let it ride and the mother would pick it up," said Coltrane, a professor at the University of California Riverside.
Today, modern fatherhood is a mishmash of contradictions. Dads devote more time to child care, but you still see a lot more moms collecting kids at pre-schools. Dads do more housework, but they haven't closed the gap with moms.
But the paper's authors concluded dads' growth and contributions are often underestimated, after studying research on families from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia.
Since the 1960s, men have doubled their contribution to housework, while women saw their share fall by more than two hours a week, according to the paper released by the Council on Contemporary Families.
Over the past 30 years, working dads increased the time they devoted to family and kids by six hours a week, while working moms saw their load rise by four hours.
Today, more two-career couples equally divide the tasks of raising a family than ever, and a growing number of parents are approaching equality.
To be sure, working moms still carry heavier burdens at home - they devote 30 hours to child rearing and family work every week compared with 16 hours for dads - and expectations remain lower for dads. Most parents also agree dads receive more credit for their parenting than moms.
But habits are changing, and this emerging parenting balance holds plenty of promise.
When men do more housework, women are happier and couples fight less.
"If a man does more housework, they are less likely to get divorced," Coltrane said.
And the report's authors expect dads to take on more household duties in the future.
"We believe that increases in men's involvement in family work are part of a continuing, rather than stalled, revolution."
Wives who work longer hours have husbands who do more at home, Coltrane said.
The pioneers of this parenting balance are two-income couples like Chris and Kim Yeargin of Seattle.
That's because dual-income families have come closest to achieving an even split of child rearing and housework.
Every week, the Yeargins juggle Mom's evening shifts as an emergency room doctor, Dad's jobs as a parenting instructor at hospitals in the region and civil engineer, and two kids aged 4 years and 10 months.
Chris cooks dinner and puts the kids to bed, and Kim gets them ready in the morning. - New York Times