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Mark Oppenheimer, a part-time stay-at-home father of two young girls, is used to stares. “When I’m walking down the street with one baby strapped to my chest and the other in a stroller–and the kids all look happy–and I walk by a group of mothers, they’re just blown away,” he says. “The easiest way in the world to get a smile is to be a man with a baby.”

Fatherhood has undergone a profound change in the past half a century. In 1965 fathers were spending 2.6 hours a week on child care; by 2000 that figure had reached 6.5 hours. There are three times as many stay-at-home fathers as there were a decade ago, and families headed by single fathers are the fastest-growing household type in the U.S. “When I started studying American mothers and fathers, the majority of the fathers I studied had never bathed their children. Many of them had never changed a diaper,” says developmental psychologist Michael Lamb of the University of Cambridge. That was in the 1970s. “Now,” he says, “men would feel embarrassed to say they hadn’t changed their children.”

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