Daddy is key to clos­ing the gap

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Life On Tapp - WORDS: BLACSE TAPP

Grow­ing up in the not-sodis­tant past I was sub­jected to count­less half threats and inane say­ings, none more so than ‘mother knows best’ and ‘wait un­til your fa­ther gets home’.

Th­ese, I should imag­ine, formed part of the sound­track to the for­ma­tive years of mil­lions of Brits of a sim­i­lar age and, although the lan­guage and tone may have changed, the sen­ti­ment still ap­plies to­day.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The prin­ci­pal care­giver and nose wiper-in-chief doesn’t al­ways have to be mum while dad needs not be the one who is sel­dom around to ex­pe­ri­ence day­light at home and reg­u­larly miss school per­for­mances.

That dy­namic is as out­dated as it is un­healthy but is largely the rea­son why the gen­der pay gap re­mains a vast one. The sta­tis­tics are now sadly fa­mil­iar to all of us: women tend to earn a third less once they have chil­dren.

Since the In­sti­tute for Fis­cal Stud­ies re­leased fig­ures, which show not a great deal of progress has been made in smash­ing the glass ceil­ing, much has been said and writ­ten about the root causes.

The Govern­ment could do more we are told to help, in­clud­ing by leg­is­lat­ing to bring down the cost of child­care – a real is­sue for work­ing par­ents – as well as en­sur­ing that com­pa­nies are stick­ing to the re­quire­ment to of­fer work/life bal­ance to all em­ploy­ees.

But at the heart of this is­sue lies so­ci­ety’s at­ti­tudes to par­ent­ing and the ac­cepted wis­dom that mums are the only ones to be trusted when it comes to rear­ing young hu­man be­ings.

Of course it is non­sense and slowly, very slowly in­deed, this out­dated view is be­ing chipped away by men who have taken on the man­tle of home­maker while their part­ners con­tinue to de­velop their ca­reers.

This is some­thing that I have played at dur­ing the past four months, hav­ing been lucky enough to join the tiny band of dads who have taken up the newly in­tro­duced shared parental leave.

The past 15 weeks have been noth­ing short of lifechang­ing, al­low­ing me to forge an even deeper bond than I al­ready had with my baby boy.

What has struck me most dur­ing this glo­ri­ous but short lived pe­riod of my life is the at­ti­tude of oth­ers to­wards my brief change of cir­cum­stance. Col­leagues were gen­uinely shocked when I told them I would be away from the of­fice and, more to the point, why.

Well-mean­ing fe­male friends have shown gen­uine con­cern when I oc­ca­sion­ally step out with­out my son, half ex­pect him to have been left asleep next to the Red Lion’s dart board rather than him be­ing looked af­ter by grand­par­ents.

So­ci­ety will get used to the phe­nom­e­non of stayat-home dads only if more are en­cour­aged to take the plunge and this will only hap­pen if the Govern­ment does more to en­cour­age firms to of­fer dads more than the statu­tory £140 per week wage for parental leave.

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