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Make Room for (the New) Daddy

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I usually spend a lot of time in this space talking about women. Women's rights and the women's movement have been my passion for more than forty years, and there's still a lot to discuss. But today I want to talk about men -- specifically dads.

I'd like to take a poll: How many fathers right now have a screen shot of their kids on their iPhone or desktop? How many Dads change diapers or babysit while Mom goes out to see a movie or have dinner with her girlfriends? How many pull their hair out trying to remember the basics of Algebra so they can help their children with their homework? And for you guys with daughters, how many of you have sat on the edge of your seat on Parents Day at ballet class, your attention more rapt than when you're watching the final seconds of a football game?

If any of the above sounds familiar to you, you're a member of a new generation of dads -- fathers who embrace their parenting role with heart and passion and aren't ashamed to admit it. In fact, from what I've seen, your faces light up with pride and joy whenever the conversation turns to your kids.

Times have changed. Used to be that that too many dads were stoic and distant figures who returned home from work just long enough to kiss their kids goodnight, then retire to their easy chairs to read the paper and have a scotch. But today's gender roles are melting into one another, and the modern family is evolving -- from an increase in households with two working parents, to a surge of at-home offices and flex-time schedules. And leading this evolution is the newly involved dad.

This is not to say that it's gotten easier to raise kids. In many ways it's much more difficult. Even with two parents at the helm, it's hard to keep up with how fast kids grow up these days, thanks to new technology, stacks of homework and the busy hive of Facebook and other social networks. To that end, the arrival of the new dad couldn't have come one second too soon.

Still, it's a joy to witness the transformation. One only need look at the TV screen -- often a decent reflection of our culture -- to see just how three-dimensional the father's role has become. Back when television was new, dads were pretty much stock characters: pipe-smoking, cardigan wearing purveyors of advice -- like Robert Young in "Father Knows Best," and Ozzie Nelson in "Ozzie and Harriet."

But not anymore. Today we have fun dads, gay dads, stay-at-home dads, outrageous dads, crazy dads -- and, almost always, thoroughly engaged dads. I personally can't wait to start tuning in this fall to the new series "Guys With Kids," which, according to the clips I've seen, features my very favorite kind of dad -- because it's the kind I had: funny dads!

So I put together this slide show for you -- from old-time dads to new-time dads -- and I'm sure that most of you fathers will recognize yourselves somewhere in this paternal pack. I hope you like it!

Dads With Kids
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