Who’s Your Daddy?

As we approach Father’s Day this weekend (and those among us who are men with children are certainly looking forward to all the neckties and other spectacular gifts) we thought we might cast a glance over some of Peter Drucker’s thoughts on fatherhood.

Drucker was himself a father and, of course, a son. He clearly had a high opinion of his own dad, whom he mentioned frequently in his books. One telling anecdote from Post-Capitalist Society concerned Drucker’s decision, at age 18, not to attend college. “My father was quite distressed,” Drucker recalled. “Ours had long been a family of lawyers and doctors. But he did not call me a ‘dropout.’ He did not try to change my mind. And he did not prophesy that I would never amount to anything.” (Drucker admitted that times had changed enough by the 1950s that when it came to his own son, “I practically forced him to go to college.”)

Clearly, a father’s respect for his child was something Drucker esteemed. Ability to teach was also something Drucker admired in a father. “Even Mozart would not have become the great genius he was but for a father who was a master teacher,” Drucker wrote in The New Realities. “And so was Raphael’s father.”

Photo by Kalexanderson
Photo by Kalexanderson

The role of respect and instruction in fatherhood was eternal, but other roles, Drucker noted, had changed—and changed dramatically.  In early human society, fathers and sons tended to work alongside one another from a young age. By the time Drucker published The New Society, in 1950, the father worked on his own. “The place of business moves away from the place of residence: the father goes to work in the plant or in the office, miles away from the home,” Drucker wrote. “Wife and children are no longer integrated into the productive work.”

Thirty years later, when Drucker published Managing in Turbulent Times, the assumption that the father was the primary breadwinner was already becoming antique. Jobless numbers, Drucker pointed out, “still assume that the ‘unemployed’ is ipso facto male, adult and the head of a household who supports other people. Yet these assumptions are absurd by now—for every developed country.”

Meanwhile, fathers were also starting to directly help their spouses raise their children—even in nations with more traditional gender roles. In The Changing World of the Executive, Drucker described, for instance, a visit to the beach in Japan. “Twenty years ago the father strode ahead, carrying nothing; the mother followed, dragging one infant, carrying the other and weighted down with paraphernalia,” Drucker wrote. “Now it was the young woman who walked ahead holding the older child by the hand, with the husband following, carrying the baby, the portable TV, the ice bucket, the sand pails and spades, the lunch boxes, the balloons and the blow-up animals.”

In still-turbulent times, fatherhood everywhere surely continues to evolve.

What do you think is fatherhood’s next great frontier or challenge?