Daddy cool

Dads should be seen as equal par­ents, not babysit­ters, the authors of a new book tell LISA SALMON

Ashbourne News Telegraph - - FAMILY MATTERS -

ON av­er­age, dads spend less than half the amount of time mums do with their kids, of­ten not hav­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for their chil­dren at all dur­ing the week. While many sur­veys sug­gest most peo­ple sup­port the idea of equal par­ent­ing – around 60% of peo­ple back each par­ent do­ing an equal share – less than 4% of new dads take any shared parental leave. Shock­ingly, a third of new fa­thers don’t even use their two weeks of pa­ter­nity leave.

Fa­thers James Mil­lar and David Freed, who writes the par­ent­ing blog Dads Turn, call this the ‘pa­ter­nity gap’, and they’ve writ­ten the new book Dads Don’t Babysit to of­fer so­lu­tions to help close it.

“We want a more equal so­ci­ety, as surely most peo­ple do,” says James. “In this year that marks 100 years since the suc­cess of the suf­fragettes, men might just be the fi­nal piece of the puz­zle. Women have been fight­ing for equal­ity for decades, now it’s the dads’ turn.”

Here, James and David of­fer some sim­ple steps for par­ents and par­ents-to-be to help work to­wards equal par­ent­ing:

CHAL­LENGE THE IDEA THAT DADS BABYSIT

DAVID and James stress that dads are just as re­spon­si­ble for chil­dren as mums, yet their book takes its name from the number of times they were told they were ‘babysit­ting’ when look­ing after their kids.

“The word ‘babysit­ting’ means tem­po­rar­ily look­ing after some­one else’s chil­dren. No-one would tell a mum she’s babysit­ting her own kid,” says David.

“When some­one tells me I’m babysit­ting my own kid, they’re un­wit­tingly buy­ing into the idea that I’m do­ing it as a favour to the child’s mum.

“I’m ac­tu­ally just look­ing after my own kid.”

He points out that the lat­est re­search shows that what makes us nat­u­rally bet­ter par­ents isn’t our sex, but the time we spend alone look­ing after our ba­bies.

“So if you hear peo­ple talk­ing about dads as back-up par­ents with­out real re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own kids, chal­lenge them on it. Ask if they’d say the same about a mum in that sit­u­a­tion.”

CHANGE THE WAY YOU AP­PROACH BABY GROUPS

MEN aren’t brought up to sing in pub­lic, James points out, and this means rhyme-time type events are off-putting to dads.

There are two pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to this, he says. Men can do more singing with their kids in the house, shower, car, etc, or they can try to set up events that ap­peal to men more.

“In­stead of call­ing it Rhyme Time, call it Mini Rock Club,” sug­gests James. “What­ever it takes. It’s dads and mums who can make the change hap­pen.”

GIVE NURS­ERY OR SCHOOL DAD’S NUMBER

MAKE it nor­mal for both par­ents to field the nurs­ery or school calls. When your child starts there, put dad’s name and number first on any forms so both par­ents can call the shots and step up for child­care emer­gen­cies.

USE YOUR LEAVE

DAVID says the ev­i­dence is clear that, when a dad takes full re­spon­si­bil­ity for child­care on his own, he’s sig­nif­i­cantly more

likely to con­tinue that caring re­spon­si­bil­ity as his child grows.

“If dads take shared parental leave alone, use flex­i­ble work­ing to care for their kids, or even al­ter­nate with their part­ner at week­ends to take the lead on caring for the kids, it can ben­e­fit the whole fam­ily for a life­time,” he stresses.

He also points out that dads who are more in­volved with their fam­i­lies are hap­pier, health­ier and live longer, and mums with part­ners who do their bit en­joy bet­ter men­tal health and higher earn­ing power.

END DOU­BLE STAN­DARDS

DAVID and James say par­ents are faced with dou­ble stan­dards be­cause fa­thers aren’t usu­ally ex­pected to be re­spon­si­ble for their chil­dren, but moth­ers are.

“A mum tak­ing six months’ ma­ter­nity leave is told she’s com­ing back to work early,” says David.

“Would we say the same to a dad tak­ing six months parental leave? We should be will­ing to chal­lenge peo­ple who put these sort of neg­a­tive judge­ments on work­ing mums.”

WATCH FOR ‘DUMB DAD’ STEREOTYPES

JAMES says peo­ple, espe­cially chil­dren, of­ten form views from what they see on TV, and points out that Homer Simp­son is “prob­a­bly the most fa­mous fa­ther on the planet”, yet he’s a ter­ri­ble ex­am­ple of fa­ther­hood.

“From Homer to Jim Royle to Peter Grif­fin, and even Daddy Pig, dads come across as buf­foons who can’t be trusted with the baby. How about some like­able stay-at-home dads on our TVS?”

He says last year the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Agency an­nounced it was look­ing to out­law lazy gen­der stereotypes from ad­verts, and James would like Of­com to do the same for tele­vi­sion pro­grammes. “But un­til they do, par­ents have the power to be dis­cern­ing about the sort of dads we want role-mod­el­ling fa­ther­hood on TV.”

CON­TACT YOUR MP

POLITICIANS won’t act un­less they think there’s votes or pub­lic­ity in it, stresses David, who says peo­ple “should get in their MP’S face about this. Be a key­board war­rior, de­mand change.” CHAL­LENGE THE IDEA OF HAV­ING TO ‘MAN UP’ THE authors say what it means to ‘be a man’ holds a lot of men back, espe­cially when it comes to be­ing a nur­tur­ing and lov­ing dad.

“But child­care is as manly as a dad wants to make it,” says David. “The pub­lic­ity cam­paigns to pro­mote parental leave in coun­tries like Swe­den showed tat­tooed, bearded and butch men look­ing after their ba­bies, and lov­ing it. There are dads out there who are own­ing fa­ther­hood, will­ing to ‘man-up and change the nappy’.

“If you’re not al­ready one of them, join them!”

A dad tak­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for young chil­dren on his own is likely to con­tinue do­ing so as his child grows

Spend­ing time alone with your chil­dren can ben­e­fit the fam­ily for a life­time

Use your pa­ter­nity leave Dads who are more in­volved with their fam­i­lies are hap­pier and health­ier

Equal par­ent­ing is key when it comes to rais­ing a fam­ily

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