Dads aren't what they used to be. And that may be for the best.

Mostly gone are the days of Ward Cleaver working all day to make ends meet while wife June stays home, looking great, refereeing Wally and the Beaver and hustling to make sure Ward's dinner is on the table when he gets home.

In 2014, Ward might be the one making dinner, shuffling kids to school and back, and trying to get some work done while keeping the house in order.

Men still provide. But chances are better than ever that it's mom bringing home the bacon, while dad fries it up in a pan. Dads are now expected to handle as much of the domestic side as moms. Somewhere along the way, that became the norm. And the guys seem to like it, because it allows them to not only be a bigger part of the household but also to get closer to the kids.

We asked a few parents how their experience raising children compared to that of the previous generation.

A modern poet whose daughter will know it

Nine months and counting the day is near,

My newborn child ... is soon to appear.

I've got everything prepared and ready for thee,

Of becoming the father my child needs me to be.

First I will vow to respect and care for my wife,

For she has given me the most precious gift -- life.

No greater calling can be bestowed on a soul,

So my first role as a father is to not let them go.

Time is but a blur with everything to be done,

Been assigned vacuum duties and diapers for fun.

My wife steals the show with her soothing voice and breast,

I just do my best, and take care of the rest.

Two years in and I'm starting to shine,

My role as a father is now equal in line.

My life revolves around the tiny feet below,

To protect and guide in my life's ... greatest role.

Twenty years as a father passed by in a blink,

As my empty nest and quiet gives me time to think.

My father once told me so long ago,

Darrell Lewis and his family.
Darrell Lewis and his family. (Courtesy of Darrell Lewis)

"You will never know love until you have a child of your own"

-- Darrell Eugene Lewis, Santa Clara

Good advice from the boss

Kathleen and I moved to California more than 30 years ago. We had two young daughters, and then very quickly two more. I had been promoted to the Hills Bros. Coffee headquarters in San Francisco, and we quickly settled into a routine.

I worked; Kathy was a stay-at-home mom who took care of everything else, just like her mother and mine did.

A lot has changed in the 40 years Kathleen and I have been together. Our union today much more closely resembles our daughter's marriage than our parents'. We both work in and out of the home, and the workload is more fairly and evenly divided. Things have changed and for the better.

There is one thing about being a dad that has not changed. Early on in my new position, I was introduced to the company president, Paul Miller. I was intimidated, not knowing what to say, and nervous that I would say the wrong thing. After a few cursory questions about market share and plans to grow the brand in the Northeast, Paul asked me about how my family was adjusting. I bragged about my wife and how much I loved my kids, and he, the father of three teenage boys at the time, told me something that I have never forgotten. "Bobby, your kids will never love you as much as you love them; and they will never know how much you love them until they have children of their own."

We're grandparents now, and my daughter Meghan tells me that Paul was correct, "Love descends." Cherish every moment; they grow up fast!

-- Robert C. Moore, San Ramon

Putting kids first

As impressionable youths, most boys know what they want to be when they're older. A fireman, ballplayer, etc. I wanted to be a father. And I wanted to "do it right."

Growing up in a lower-middle-class household with a distant stepdad and troubled stepbrother was both awkward and uncomfortable.

Broken families weren't the norm in the 1960s, and I was called by the wrong last name in public more times than I'd like to remember. When I got older, I promised to make every sacrifice to ensure that my children never had to suffer the turmoil I sometimes endured.

Bill Wikander and his daughters.
Bill Wikander and his daughters. (Courtesy of Bill Wikander)

I was going to cherish the diaper changes and the doctor visits just as much as Disneyland trips and bedtime stories. And I was always going to be there for them.

My wish came true, but not without hardships. Now divorced for 10 years after a gut-wrenching split, I did everything to save the marriage out of fear of history repeating itself, but it wasn't nearly enough. When my ex moved out, my son and daughter were toddlers and stayed with me. I didn't have a day off for five years. Today, two residences actually seem normal to them.

They're in their teens now, and we have a great relationship still today.

Maybe I didn't do it right after all, but I live every day trying to do right by them.

-- Nick Gillis, Los Gatos

Rewarding role

As I reflect on what it's like to be a dad, I come back to the thought of being single and a dad!

My memories of the role my father took part in were very simple ones indeed. My father was the provider, the disciplinarian and not much more. He was the "king" of the household. One can say during the '60s that this was the traditional way of being a father and carrying on that role.

As for me, I am 53 years of age and never thought that I would be raising my child alone, but here I am doing it. The role of this father changed from carrying on the "traditional" aspect of basically being the provider to being the father, the cook, the cleaner, and everything else that comes with supporting your child. I'm not complaining here, just wanting to convey that my role has evolved big time. I thank my mother for giving me the basics of cooking, because without that skill set, my son and I would probably be eating bologna sandwiches for the most part. It has become very rewarding when I hear my son say, "Hey, Dad, that was a great dinner you cooked up." Enough said!

-- Joe Lagos, Fremont

Effort pulls equal with biology

After my first daughter was born, I would watch my wife breast-feeding and marvel at the closeness that she and my daughter shared. This was a closeness that I didn't think I could have because I lacked the necessary equipment. I was rather envious until I realized what I could do as a father. I began to read every day to my week-old daughter, holding her head up to show her the pictures. I doubt she knew what I was doing, other than the fact that her father was cradling her in his arms and giving her his undivided attention. My reading to my daughter had the added benefits of giving my wife some time to herself, and of putting my daughter to sleep. After a second daughter, many years, and thousands and thousands of books, my girls finally wanted to read to themselves. My pleasure of reading to the girls changed to that of watching them succeed.

You could say that my wife was feeding our daughters' bodies, and that I was feeding their minds. But beyond that, my wife mothers my children every day, and I do my best to father my children every day.

-- Bill Wikander, Walnut Creek

Naturals at nurturing

My husband, Scott, and I went to visit our friends Lewis and Doug and to meet the two young children they adopted from Guatemala. Both Lewis and Doug had stepped away for a moment, so Scott and I were carefully watching the little girl who was less than 2 years old. While running around, she tripped and scraped her knee. She started to cry and looked up for comfort. Both Scott and I moved toward her. She took a careful look and evaluated the situation: one unfamiliar man and one unfamiliar woman -- both eager to help. She then made a dash into the open arms of my husband. In her young world, it was clear that the men were the comforters and caregivers. Happy Father's Day to my dear friends and to all the children who get to celebrate two fathers this Father's Day.

-- Linda Ellenberg Rafferty, Walnut Creek

The more things change ...

Dad worked shifts, fixed everything and never called a plumber until long after I graduated from college. I'm home for dinner, cook once or twice a week and take our cars to mechanics.

Dad helped us with electric/mechanical projects for school; I helped the kids with writing and programming and websites and read the Bible to them at bedtime well into the teen years.

Dad showed me by example what it means to be a good man: to treat people fairly, to provide for his family, to cherish our mom, to keep learning. He worked harder than I do. I cook more, talk more with our girls and play more Scrabble with them than he did with us.

But some things don't change. He was the breadwinner; so am I. He took us to school sometimes; so did I. He took us on vacations, paid for our education, etc.

He's thoughtful and sensitive and supportive and loving. I hope I am, too.

-- Collin Park, Redwood City

Embracing life's messes

It's not just that parenting is full of surprises -- some of them are surprises you never could have imagined. And to the degree that a guy may not imagine as much about home life as a woman might -- well, he's, as we say, in for it.

Consider an example from my own life.

First our kids got Lite-Brites -- thousands of tiny colored plastic reflectors they're supposed to arrange on a pegboard to make pictures. What they prefer, of course, is to scatter the damn things everywhere.

For years I cleaned up Lite-Brites. Then my wife brought home an "Indian dress" for our daughter, which was covered with beaded fringe, bits of which constantly fell off the dress. Soon, we couldn't take a step in the house without encountering this new form of litter.

Then, just when I thought we'd finally vacuumed up the last beaded fringe, Grandma came over with a pink feather boa for our little angel. Within hours, our living room looked like a psychedelic henhouse.

Grandma, of course, was long gone.

-- Tim Myers, Santa Clara