In January 2023, a new session of Congress began with a chaotic speakership vote in the House of Representatives. During the days-long vote, congressional members waited with their families—even babies—on the House floor. Notably, Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) carried his four-month old son, Hodge, in a carrier.

In that moment, as national leaders were shown struggling to manage their work lives with their efforts to raise their families, it was clear that something had shifted. Following years of pandemic-era work-from-home policies and school closures—during which parents frequently had to share duties more equally as they worked and looked after their children in the same space—concerns over how to work while raising a family had become a priority. And so as the sphere of work returned to its more usual space beyond the home, and work and family continued as not-so-easily-separate parts of everyones’ lives, concerns about working while raising a family have remained at the top of parents’ minds.

So in the beginning of 2023, a group of representatives led by Jimmy Gomez—Rashida Tlaib, Joaquin Castro, Andy Kim, Jamaal Bowman, Rob Menendez, Dan Goldman, and Joe Neguse—founded the Dads Caucus in recognition that work and family policies impact fathers as well as mothers, and that fathers should play a role in advocating for these policies. Since then, the Dads Caucus has especially focused on child care, paid family and medical leave, and expanding the child tax credit—policies that would support parents as they struggled to manage working and raising their children.

The work of the Dads Caucus couldn’t have come at a better time, as data show that moms and dads alike are both spending more time not only on work but also on caring for their children.

Gender gaps have narrowed as time spent on work and care has increased

Parents face an enormous challenge. Child care remains unaffordable and the United States is pretty much the only developed nation without a paid family medical leave policy. Meanwhile, parents have experienced unprecedented disruptions in both caregiving responsibilities and work, as the pandemic and then the return to the workplace has roiled child care arrangements and jobs. As parents manage the pressures of participating in the workforce and raising children, they now find themselves doing more of both.

While significant gender gaps remain in time spent on work and care, these gaps have slightly narrowed over the past decade. Mothers have increased the amount of time they spend working each day, on average, while fathers have slightly decreased their time on work (see Figure 1). While mothers have increased their time working by about 9 percent over the past decade, fathers have decreased their time working by nearly 4 percent. Furthermore, mothers and fathers both have increased the time they spend—individually, and in total—on active caregiving and on secondary child care (doing another primary activity with a child present, like chores, watching television, or working), as is shown in Figures 2 and 3. In particular, Figure 3 shows a stark increase in time spent on secondary child care during the pandemic, which is hardly surprising as child care programs and schools shut down, leaving parents to simultaneously manage care and other activities.




Altogether, these data show that mothers and fathers are spending more time on care and more time on work. While these increases in time spent on care and on work could be caused by a number of different factors, the important point is that the length of a day hasn’t gotten any longer, and so there is an urgent need for care policies that support both fathers and mothers. As parents face a growing demand for their time from both work and family, it is increasingly urgent for Congress to pass policies that support families’ ability to manage their growing responsibilities.

Care is especially a priority for Latino fathers

It is not a coincidence that Jimmy Gomez emerged as a founder of the Dads Caucus, as Latino fathers place a high premium on care policies. A November 2023 national survey fielded by Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (AP/OD), which surveyed 1,500 Latino families about issues relating to their children’s wellbeing, found that 46 percent of Latino fathers named improving access to quality, affordable child care as the most important issue that the government should address in order to improve the wellbeing of children. This prioritization of child care makes sense, considering the impact that the lack of care has had on families’ economic security during and after the pandemic. In the survey, more than half of Latino fathers (53 percent) reported experiencing some sort of disruption due to child care issues, including missing work, reducing work, increased child care costs, or the need to change child care providers.

More than half of Latino fathers (53 percent) reported experiencing some sort of disruption due to child care issues, including missing work, reducing work, increased child care costs, or the need to change child care providers.

Additionally, among unemployed Latino fathers, 47 percent said they would be more likely to look for a job if affordable child care were available, and among part-time working Latino fathers, 66 percent said they would increase their work hours if such care were available. Since work is foundational for long-term economic security, care becomes an important component for long-term financial stability, as having more affordable child care not only increases net income, but also gives parents the flexibility to pursue more training, education, or look for higher-paying jobs. While Latino fathers are only one portion of the population, additional research may show that these findings may extend to other populations as well.

Looking ahead to this Father’s Day, and beyond

Care policies such as affordable and accessible child care, paid sick time, and paid family and medical leave would still disproportionately directly benefit women and mothers, who are more likely to take time off work for caregiving responsibilities. But nationwide trends indicate that, increasingly, fathers would also benefit from policies that make working while raising a family less of a struggle. The simple fact is that care policies that support working and caring together are foundational for ensuring that all people have the time they need to work, to take care of themselves, and to care for their loved ones. As the country strives toward a society that is more equal, moms and dads need equal opportunities to have the flexibility and support work as well as to engage with their children and families.

Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Abriendo Puertas/Opening doors for providing the survey data that made this commentary possible. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the reviewers or partners.