“I’m not working,” he said. “If they need me to help, I’ll help.”
He watches Nathan five days a week, often for eight to 10 hours each day. Now that Nathan is 3 and attends preschool in the afternoons, Mr. Wolf can fit in a nap — for himself. “Running after a 2- or 3-year-old is exhausting,” he said. But he plans to continue, even when Nathan goes to school full time.
Overall, grandmothers still take the lead in spending time with grandchildren, often rearranging their schedules to do so, said Madonna Harrington Meyer, a sociologist at Syracuse University and the author of “Grandmothers at Work: Juggling Families and Jobs.”
And Jennifer Utrata, a sociologist at the University of Puget Sound who has interviewed dozens of parents and grandparents, found that even when grandfathers are involved, “the care is often arranged, monitored and checked on by the grandmothers.” The grandfathers see their role as supplementary, helping their spouses out. “Most intensive grandparenting is still intensive grandmothering,” Dr. Utrata said.
Researchers, however, believe change is on the horizon. Cultural and demographic trends, including better health and longer lives, mean that grandfathers can take more active roles. And there’s some evidence that American fathers spend considerably more time caring for children than their predecessors did: an average of eight hours a week in 2016, compared with just 2.5 hours in 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. As contemporary dads become grandpas, caring for kids may feel satisfying and familiar.
“I’m seeing that both grandmothers and grandfathers want to be involved, though I don’t think grandfathers are changing diapers as much,” said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist at Temple University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.