The Rise Of The New (Classic) Dad

February 08, 2022 7 min read

As kids, how many of us looked to our dad for help when we came upon a ridiculous obstacle? Sure, you probably ran to your mother if you were hurt or needed comfort, but if there was something blocking your path, dad would help you break it down. Couldn't improve your batting average? Dad was there. Having trouble in chemistry? Dad knew the solutions (that's a chemistry joke). Moved into your first apartment and had to do some quick plumbing because the landlord was useless? Dad had your back.

The know-it-all, rugged, dad's dad kind of went out of style for a while though. You see a lot of guys who sacrificed knowledge and a willingness to confront obstacles for a more blunted approach to life and parenting. Whether these new dads focused too much on being independent of their families, or worried too much about being buddies with their kids, their approach just isn't what's needed anymore.

This modern age is pretty turbulent - you don't need an article telling you that. Whether it's financials, home renovation, or being brave in the face of an uncertain future, it's important that dad has the answers. The handyman/lover/all-around-expert dad is becoming popular again - let's take a look at why that is, and how it's a great thing.

What is a "classic" dad?

We look to the past and see examples of fathers ranging from distant and unconcerned with their families to being maybe too controlling. One thing these old dads had in common, whether in TV, books, or movies is that they had the answers. When something broke, they fixed it - car, kitchen sink, or their kid's bike. The main problem with this “Retro Dad” is that they viewed everything as a problem that needed solving; they weren't great lovers, or warm fathers in many cases.

To compensate, men went too far in the other direction, focusing on nurturing their wives and children emotionally but at the cost of their utility. It's nice to be an "evolved man," but if you're not doing any “Retro Dad'' stuff, it's a poor trade-off. It's made that much worse if the "Evolved Dad" isn't helping with household duties like cleaning and cooking; those guys are just sweet without substance.

No, what we need is a man who can be there emotionally for his family, and still be capable of taking care of them, striking a balance between being the “Retro Dad” and the “Evolved Dad.” This middle ground is what we call a "Classic Dad"; all the flavor and appeal of “Evolved Dad” with the extreme amount of caffeinated usefulness of “Retro Dad.” It's a man that never skips his kids' recitals and games but can change his tires, brakes, and oil. It's a guy who doesn't stop romancing his wife, but also remembers that cleaning and cooking aren't "woman's work". It's being brave and protecting those less powerful around you from people that would prey on them.

When masculinity got weird

A large part of why men distanced themselves from the "Retro Dad" version of masculinity and fatherhood is that the old view of being a man is outdated. You don't need to be emotionally unavailable or chauvinistic to be a man; that would be silly. But you also shouldn't throw out those manly skills or the willingness to help other people in need. There are too many guys out here thinking that being "alpha" is important when their only alpha tendency is aggressiveness and chest-thumping. Meanwhile, their girlfriends pay for everything because they can't hold down a job.

Masculinity and "dadness" are about taking care of your family, not about proving to the world that you're a man. You don't need to be hyper-aggressive or rude to show you're a man - that just shows you're a jerk. One of the biggest benefits of becoming a father, for many guys, is the detachment from that feeling that you need to prove your masculinity.

A big part of becoming the “Classic Dad” is that you redefine masculinity as being calm under pressure, with a willingness to help other people, and an ability to protect your tribe, whether that's your family, your community, your scout troop, or so forth. Your wife wants you to be emotionally available, but she wants a partner - someone she can count on, not someone she needs to take care of.

Learn some skills

There's no reason you should ever be stranded by the side of the road with a flat tire if you've got a jack and spare in your car. Changing a tire is a fundamental skill that everyone should possess, but especially a dad. You should want to be that dad that sees a stranded motorist and prides themselves on changing their tire as quickly as possible, like an Indy 500 pit tech. You should also be able to change your own oil, and know your way - at least in a basic sense - around your car.

This goes for your house as well. Get familiar with the basics of plumbing, carpentry, and other general upkeep concepts. You don't need to take HVAC or electric classes, but there are plenty of minor fixes you can do yourself that will save you tons of money. Plus, it looks and feels excellent to see a household problem and be able to fix it yourself.

Finally, learn to cook for yourself and your family. Nobody should be in their 30s or older and need to order takeout every night. Not only will this save you money, but it's also healthier to cook at home, and it's a must for independence.

Becoming a manly dad

Being a husband and father isn't easy - there are tons of books, and people have been doing it for thousands of years, but nobody has perfected it yet. Whether you're a dad now or hope to be one eventually, every single day is a chance to wake up and start improving yourself. This is great not only for you but for everyone you will interact with, including your wife and children. Becoming a manly "dad classic" is psychological, emotional, and educational, so buckle up - it's a wild ride.

Get healthy

This goes beyond attracting a wife; you shouldn't let yourself slide as a husband. Many people gain weight when they get comfortable in a relationship, so perhaps this section should be "never get comfortable." Keep yourself fit, because it's a reflection of self-respect but also because you want to set a good example to your kids. Finally, being healthy shows not just an investment in what your wife has to look at, but that you're not sabotaging your chances at a long life either.

Get help if you need it

Don't be the “Retro Dad” who never goes to the doctor, and finds out far too late that their health is in the toilet. Likewise, don't neglect your mental health - see a therapist before you take your anxiety or depression out on those around you. It's not masculine or cool to bottle up your emotions and then rage out randomly.

It's also important that you learn to listen and be there for your family, too. Dads want to solve everything - that's a man trait for sure - but sometimes people just want to be heard. It can be strange to listen without offering solutions, but it's a powerful skill to develop.

Why is the manly dad becoming popular again?

Women who are interested in marriage and a family are looking for a stable man they can count on. There are so many men in their 30s who are professional video game players and while that's fine if they're handling their lives properly, many are just overgrown children. Women don't want another kid to take care of, they want a protector and partner. Likewise, they don't want a guy who justifies not taking their part in house maintenance because "they work a full-time job."

As a manly dad, you should be able and happy to help your family. When everyone wants a clean house and food to eat, the idea of gender-based household duties is ridiculous. Even if your wife is the primary caregiver, that's a huge job for one person; step up and handle business so she doesn't drown in children and housework.

This is the reason the manly dad is popular again; he sees problems and wants to fix them like “Retro Dad,” but understands how to approach the emotions and needs of his family, like “Evolved Dad.” Your wife and kids want someone they can rely on, who cares for them in every way they need, who protects them, and sees them through uncertain times. Just like you looked up to your dad for the answers when things were confusing or scary, your family wants that from you, too.

You don't need to be a former Navy Seal or be able to rebuild an F150 from spare parts; you just need to be brave, strong, and knowledgeable about a wide range of topics. You need to be able to take care of yourself physically and mentally, and be able to do that for your wife and kids. Realize that romancing your wife is more than buying flowers on Mother's Day - it's about ensuring that she's not overwhelmed with housework that you neglect because you work outside the home. Be there for your kids, stay steady on a Saturday when they wake you up to play at 6 am, and know how to work around the house.

The manly dad - or the “Classic Dad,” if you will - is starting to be seen favorably again.

And that's a small sliver of hope for a weird, shaky future.

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