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‘Fathers enjoy fatherhood’: Dads spending more time with their kids

Updated June 16, 2024 - 9:29 am

Brandon Eddy spends his 20-minute drive home from work getting into dad mode. At home, his three children just want to hang out with their dad. And their dad just wants to hang out with them.

Sunday marks Father’s Day, a celebratory tradition that’s over 100 years old, and is usually spent grilling hamburgers or playing outside, basking in the sun. Father’s Day is meant to honor dads for their role in a family, and new research shows that role is evolving.

Eddy, a UNLV assistant professor and a researcher in the Couple and Family Therapy Program, said men are taking on more active roles in family dynamics, and the number of single fathers is on the rise.

This stems from big societal changes, said Eddy, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, according to his UNLV biography. With more women in the workforce, men are stepping into different roles beyond being the breadwinner or disciplinarian, but not because they have to. They want to.

Of fatherhood and mental health

“Fathers enjoy fatherhood,” he said.

Research shows that fathers are spending three times as much time with their children than they have in the past, Eddy said. His research focuses on mental health issues related to parenthood and pregnancy.

Fatherhood, Eddy’s research shows, is good for a man’s mental health. June is designated as Men’s Mental Health Month, and while having children can add stress to a parent’s life, they can also be stress-relievers.

“Children are really good at providing clarity about what matters most,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s been a really stressful day, I go home and all your kids want is a hug, and they just want to hang out with you.”

For Eddy, his children — 13, 11 and 9 — have provided balance. They act as reminders to leave work at work and engage in quality time. His kids want to play video games with him or talk when he gets home, he said.

Kids can also work as motivation for some fathers to get healthier, emotionally and physically.

The stigma around men’s mental health is changing, too, Eddy said. There are still high expectations for men surrounding what they can and can’t feel, or if they can admit they need help mentally or emotionally, but it’s becoming more acceptable for men to ask for help and to show emotion.

“I think we’re in better shape than we’ve been in since I can remember,” Eddy said about the state of men’s mental health.

But fathers aren’t the only people benefitting from their heightened roles in the family dynamic.

“Fathers have been shown to help children’s emotional development, their cognitive development, their academics, their functioning socially,” Eddy said.

A lot of the positive side effects that come from having a positive relationship with a father come from stability in the home. Stability can lead children to have higher self-esteem and can give them a safe environment to explore the world, Eddy said.

“When the foundation is set for the kids at home, again, the chances of success are much higher,” he said.

A girl dad

Rob Santamaria of Summerlin, 52, had a lengthy career in the U.S. Army as a field artilleryman, which brought him some memorable moments, but when his first daughter was born, everything changed.

“I had a lot of special events in my life up until the time my first daughter was born and then that became the most special moment in my life,” he said. “My life kind of rotates around my kids.”

Being a girl dad is something Santamaria has embraced. It comes with challenges because his daughters go through things he’s never experienced, but he’s learning as he goes, Santamaria said. Plus, he’s had some valuable coaching from his wife.

Santamaria has been deployed twice since having children, so any time they get together is quality time, but he said he likes to be involved with kids’ favorite activities. His youngest daughter, 14, enjoys swimming and his oldest, 18, enjoys theater and the arts.

He just likes to enjoy their interests alongside them, he said, while dropping his youngest off at swim practice at The Trails Park pool.

“Whatever activities my kids are involved in, I get to watch them learn, grow, enjoy themselves and that has become the thing that makes me happiest — is seeing them happy,” he said.

Kids grow up

Having five kids is no easy feat, but Summerlin resident Mark Haymore, 60, has loved every second of it. His kids are older now, spanning the ages of 20 to 32, and are mostly out of the house, but spending time with them is still important, he said.

Haymore, a CPA, took on a big role in his family’s early life because he worked from home and was able to be involved beyond being a financial provider.

When his children were young, it was fun to play with them, he said, but now it’s fun to relate to them as adults. The mental health effects he’s experienced through fatherhood have been positive.

“Just having them there, somebody to take care of,” he said. “Just being part of their support group. It’s just been helpful.”

How they spend time together has changed over the years, but the changes were welcomed.

His family enjoys hiking at Red Rock Canyon, camping and getting dinner together, he said.

“I think it’s good. It’s been good for me,” he said, talking about fatherhood.

Outdoor time

Las Vegas resident Ronnie Trevino, 35, was visiting Bob Baskin Park on Thursday afternoon with his two kids, ages 2 and 3. Trevino, an electrician, was taking a break from work to hang out with this children.

He said fatherhood comes with challenges, but also makes dealing with challenges easier.

“It makes your day better,” he said.

Trevino often finds a new water park to visit within the city with his children. On Father’s Day, he plans on barbecuing with his kids and enjoying the family time, he said.

“What you love doing … that’s what you bring to your kids,” he said.

For his family, that’s spending time outside together.

A son’s perspective

Aidan Downey, 70, who just moved to Summerlin from California, has no children of his own, but reflected on his own relationship with his father who died when he was 58. His father was a good provider but kept himself at a distance, he said walking his dog at The Trails Park Wednesday.

Downey lived in New York City until he was 10 and had a front row seat to his friends’ lives and their relationships with their families. He considered himself lucky.

“I realized at the time, I was very lucky to have the father I did because he was the only guy on the block who wore a tie to work,” he said.

The culture of American society and the emphasis on gender roles were different when Downey was growing up, he said. He couldn’t recall his father ever cooking a meal, but in Downey’s own marriage, he did a majority of the cooking.

Downey has a cousin who was a stay-at-home dad until his children were old enough to attend school.

“Culture and society changes over time,” he said. “If it works for people, the adults and the children grow up to be normal, adapted, successful adults, then by definition, it’s correct. The proof is in the pudding.”

‘Keep it simple’

Deandre Pierce, 30, of Las Vegas is a father to his 3-year-old son and 9-year-old stepson, and he likes to keep fatherhood simple, he said. It’s not about him.

“Keep it simple. It’s not about you. It’s about raising the next generation of kids. Do better than the father before you,” he said.

Fatherhood can be good for your mental health, Pierce said, but it can be difficult without a good co-parent. Pierce, who owns All-Star Services, a pressure washing company, likes to take his kids to local water parks to beat the heat.

Three-year-old Jojo, who was playing on the rope ladder at Baker Park, said he likes to work with his dad on race cars in their garage.

‘My purpose’

Companionship and purpose are two things Mike Anderson said his kids have gifted him.

A North Las Vegas resident, Anderson, 53, has three children — 13, 17 and 30 — and enjoys camping and building things with them, he said. One of his fondest memories, he said, was watching his youngest son catch his first fish. He was shopping at Bass Pro Shops Monday with this son ahead of Father’s Day weekend.

“It’s kind of my purpose,” Anderson said, commenting on fatherhood. “It’s what we’re supposed to do.”

He said he’s much harder on his boys than his daughter, something Brandon Eddy calls differential parenting — a concept where parents treat their children differently from each other.

“I’m more involved than just being the breadwinner and the discipliner,” Anderson said. “They know that I’m there if they need me. We’re friends and we go do everything together and we’re good. They understand there has to be a line between friendship and parenthood.”

Anderson’s Father’s Day plans are still up in the air. But spending time with his children is guaranteed, whether they’re swimming in the pool, out on the boat or spending the day at the shooting range. The best part of fatherhood is watching his kids grow up, he said.

“It happened so fast,” Anderson said. “It seems like last year, they were just in diapers.”

Contact Ella Thompson at ethompson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @EllaDeeThompson on X.

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