I have been spending some of my time recently absorbing myself in research to do with the life, mental health and cultural consequences of becoming a father, or a Dad. A subject I am familiar with and have been for a while, partly to do with becoming a Dad myself, and partly because hearing about and talking to other Dads and observing their place in our modern world fascinates me.
During the first Covid-19 lockdown the UK saw the biggest shift in the amount of time Dads spent with their children in possibly more than 200 years, according to the ONS and others. A 58% increase. However, for every hour that a mother spends with her child, the father, on average is spending 24 minutes. The most being in Portugal which is 39 minutes.
A common explanation is that men are still usually paid more or given more work opportunities which makes it a bigger risk for those families who would otherwise be keen to take an alternative approach to who stays home and who goes to work. Also it seems that a lot of employers are still unwilling compared to some other countries to grant requests for flexible working hours and locations to allow parents to support their families more.
When I first thought about this I thought that this had only happened to me a couple of times. Although since becoming a Dad I have only had two full time contracts and both these environments were unwilling to consider these requests. They also very directly questioned my position based on me having a family at home. This is made even more baffling by the fact that they were both public sector institutions (although run by private companies) and both were centred around children and families. One being a children’s care home and the other a school. I am not saying that it is across the board but both suffered from the culture and pressures heaped upon them. Both seemed like they were dealing with these kinds of issues for the very first time, it wasn’t normal for staff to walk in and seek flexibility due to needing to support their family.
It is common practise for a staff member to leave the premises and seek out a child who hasn’t come to school, or hasn’t come home, but if they needed to do it to support their own child or family? Well they may need to consider that one a bit more.
My Christmas wish is that this year has allowed a large number, if not most, households everywhere to find a way to do things a little differently, because they want to, for the benefit of their family unit. When my family and I realised we could and that we wanted a different balance, it allowed the gradual, sometimes difficult journey to realise that it was also ok.