Often, it seems like fathers get a bad rap as the less hands-on parent, even as we prepare to celebrate them on Father's Day. But in many families, dads do as much of the behind-the-scenes work as moms — yet while moms get publicly celebrated for their work, the contributions that dads make to family life are often overlooked or forgotten, with dads themselves often painted as inept or absent. The absence of images of engaged dads becomes especially problematic when we consider non-nuclear families, like those helmed by single fathers, or families built by male same-sex couples. Modern families model a kind of loving, fully-engaged fatherhood that we rarely see acknowledged in mainstream culture (and when it is acknowledged, it's usually in the form of dads getting roasted on Facebook and labelled with monikers such as "Mr. Mom").
Pop culture might not give many props to engaged dads, but at least one mom has been chronicling her husband’s role as a father on her Instagram feed for years. Erica Martin of ECM Images Photography has shot her husband engaging in some heavy-duty parenting from the moment she got her first iPhone. "He is very involved in their lives," Martin, a family portrait photographer and mother of two from Nebraska, says of her husband. "From the moment we had our first child, he has been amazing. I feel like my kids are so lucky to have him, because he has never been afraid to let them know how much he loves them."
When I first discovered Martin's Instagram feed (which inspired this article), I was pleasantly surprised — but it also made me think there must be many other families out there capturing the reality of fatherhood through photography. Visual social media tools like Instagram and Facebook offer an unprecedented opportunity to not only capture the evolving reality of modern family life, but to help challenge socially-entrenched ideas about a father's role. The more photos or art we create that accurately depicts the modern fatherhood experience, the more easily we can bust through tired old tropes about the dad who leaves the difficult parts of parenting to the mother.
Deep down, most fathers are just like most mothers. They love their kids and they enjoy spending time with them. We know that fathers who immerse themselves in family life help raise well-rounded children who grow into strong adults. We also know that fatherhood changes men and that men who are fathers tend to love the experience of fatherhood. So let's make sure we continue to support fathers by giving them positive feedback for their contributions, and celebrate the essential role they play in the lives of their kids and their families.
To that end, here are some of the best photos of dads being dads on Instagram:
1. The Dads Giving Their Son A Cooking Lesson
2. The Dad Who Models Fashion Accessories
3. The Morning Routine Dad
4. The Dancing Dad
5. The Babywearing Dad
6. The Dress Up Dad
7. The Dad Who Really Understands What Cooking Dinner With A Toddler Means
8. The Dad On House Cleaning Duty
9. The Hairstylist Dad
10. The Stroller Dad
11. The Dad Who Loves Tea Parties
12. The Teaching Dad
13. The Dad With Mad Nail Polish Skills
14. The Tired Dad
15. The Step-Dad
16. The Art Easel Dad
17. The Activist Dads
18. The Proud Dad
19. The Diaper Bag Daddy
20. The Military Dad
21. The Baby Whisperer
22. The Fun Dad
23. The Dad Who Brought Harry Potter To Life
24. The Diaper Duty Dad
25. The Upsee-Using Dad Who Helps His Mobility-Challenged Child Walk
Image: Erica Martin