Category Archives: Dads

International Men of Mystery

As someone who organises our worldwide company celebration of International Women’s Day every March 8th, I know that regular FAQs are “What about International Men’s Day?” and “When is the day for men?” (which reminds me of my eldest son’s retort on Pappendag: “when is children’s day?”) The curious, but sometimes passive aggressive, assumption being that women and parents have a special day that some men and children don’t. “Every day” is the sarcastic check your privilege response.

However, there are special international days to celebrate men and children, which (to paraphrase The Hangover), happen in a month you can Google, and on a day you can ask Alexa: November 19th and 20th respectively. Putting children to one side for a moment (well, they can get under your feet can’t they, and it is their day every day, right? 😉 let’s talk about why it’s important to celebrate men, and particularly male caregivers (e.g. dads of children, and men who care for sick relatives).

But let me start with a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, these views are my own; my opinions no more represent the official views of my company than they speak for all men. Men are all different, just like women, and have a wide range of opinions on this. I speak only for myself. Secondly, and bear in mind the first disclaimer here, it is (in my view) harder for women. For mothers of children, wives of partners, and daughters of elderly parents, more of the caring responsibility falls on women. So if anyone comments “Yeah, but it’s harder for women”, please reply: “See above.”

That said, and hopefully some of you are still hearing me out on this, I do believe that men have a right to talk about their experiences as dads and caregivers, and to be celebrated for this. Men are a figure of fun sometimes, from silly Mr Bean to incompetent Daddy Pig (father of Peppa and George), to the Minions whose creator explained the lack of Minionettes to be because he couldn’t imagine girls to be silly – which of course they can be! (Nota Bene that he also wrote “La Puta” in the movie script …) As the clowns say of Dumbo, men have thick skin, made of rubber, and they can take it.

And yes ;P I am exercising my prerogative to use silly Austin Powers’ “International Man of Mystery” moniker in the title of this post 🙂 I find it a good name because a lot of what men do is by stealth, as it’s often not seen as manly to talk about these things, nevermind do them! Which is one reason that I believe we should celebrate these fine, kind and caring, men.

So why “International”, you may ask. In my experience, and your mileage may vary, the world of work is inherently international. Our customers and clients are worldwide, and it is often necessary to visit them in person. While some companies think foreign travel is a perk, in fact it can be exhausting and stressful, for example if both parents are expected to travel at the same time. It’s great to have the support of grandparents, but if they live in a different city, or country, that is a further complication.

For many of us, work also requires that we live abroad; which is an exciting and eye-opening experience, but also has the challenges of tax declarations, finding work and education for everyone in your family, and missing out on the day to day lives of your loved ones back home. And when someone falls ill back home, it’s not so easy to be there as fast as they need you.

So to all the international men of mystery out there, juggling the expectations of work with the needs of their family; whether that is their kids, their partner, or elderly relatives back home. And especially if you are doing that single-handed. This is your day. You deserve it! Happy International Men’s Day.

Brian Ballantyne is husband to Kate, and father to Gabriel (11) and Daniel (9). As a long-time advocate for women’s rights, he felt it was high time “working fathers” had space to talk about their experiences; which lead him to start blogging #confessionsofaworkingfather on LinkedIn (blog and eBook). He wrote this for free, and views are his own.

Reflections on chatting to dads at work: are they finding a healthy work-family merge

Since father’s day is this week, I thought it was an opportune time to share some of my observations and experiences from chatting to dads at work. I have spent the last 17 years delivering support to parents in their place of work through webinars, seminars, workshops and consultations. I have always had a healthy representation of dads in the audience. However, it is only very recently that I have heard so many dads talking about issues that are very specific to them.

Increasingly, I am noticing fathers discuss striving for a healthy work-life balance and for more time with their children just as much as mothers. Mothers are gaining more equal access to employment, whilst fathers want to spend more time with their family and fulfil their childcare responsibilities.

We have progressed a long way from the stereotype of fathers at work as the main ‘breadwinner’ and mothers staying at home as the primary carer. It is very common practice for mothers to work and for fathers to be far more ‘hands on’ at home: involved in chores, nappy changing, helping with homework etc. The role of mother versus father is far less distinct than it was in our parent’s generation. Fathers at work are experiencing and feeling the same pressure as mothers to ‘have it all’ .

Right from the start, parental instinct is as real as maternal. Men have a hormonal response when their baby is born with an increase in oxytocin and oestrogen leading to a feeling of natural protectiveness for their baby, which never really goes away.

I facilitated a particularly positive session at Barclays towards the end of last year in celebration of International Men’s Day, where fathers in very senior roles were sharing how they made agile working viable for them. Even if it just meant something as simple as leaving work early on Thursdays to take their son to rugby practice. At another bank this week the auditorium was packed full of dads who wanted to attend my session specifically geared to them, that explored how the role of a father is changing and how they could get the best out of their relationship with their child. When I asked how many were working flexibly, only one father half stuck his hand up and then said it didn’t really count as he doesn’t do it anymore.  This seems to be very much the norm.

From speaking directly to dads about their differing experiences at work, there are a number of factors clearly standing in the way of enabling fathers to spend more time with their children and benefit from a full, healthy work-family merge/balance/mesh.

 

What is standing in the way of healthy work/family balance:

· Very low take up of ‘Shared Parental Leave’ and ‘Paternity Leave’ for a number of reasons; financial, how it is perceived by colleagues, the impact it may have on career progression and that mothers don’t always want to share their hard earned maternity leave with fathers.

· There is still a prevailing macho culture. At this time of year, many dads I speak to admit that they don’t feel they can announce they are leaving work early to attend sports day or an end of year school play. Or even openly request early leave for that purpose, whilst mothers can.

· Of course every individual experience is very much dependent on the attitude of line mangers and the role models in senior management.

· Paternity allowances are not in line with maternity allowances.

· More and more corporates have the right policies in place and ‘talk the talk’ but the reality and every day experience is usually very different.

· There can still be some ‘maternal gatekeeping’ in families, where even mothers that work equal hours to their partners block men from helping with things like homework and extensive childcare.

 

Earlier this week, I was fortunate to hear Sarah Jackson of Working Families, share her findings form the ‘Modern Families Index 2018’.

Facts that really stood out from the Modern Families Index were:

· Almost 1/3 of parents felt they could not work flexibly (due to job type, organisational policy, manager opposition, fears about perceived lack of commitment or fears about disadvantage re promotion or pay).

· A greater % of fathers (37%) than mothers (32%) resented their employer for their lack of work-life balance.

· A greater % of millennial fathers than mothers over the next 2 years intend to reduce their work or downshift to lower jobs.

 

Clearly huge cultural shifts still need to happen over the coming years so that genuine flexible or agile working is available to all, irrespective of whether or not you are a parent.

I genuinely feel that fathers’ increased participation in family life is one of the greatest changes in the 21st century. Fathers absolutely need to be granted the same opportunities to bond with their children as mothers are given. I passionately believe that both fathers and mothers, children and employers would benefit enormously if this became a reality.

Dads Matter – upcoming seminar 28 June

 

‘DADS MATTER’ 

28th June 8-10pm, 60 Maida Vale W9 1PP

The role of a father has changed considerably in the 21st century and dads are constantly balancing work and family, disciplining their children and at the same time trying to have a positive relationship.   This session will give dads a chance to think about what kind of father they want to be and to explore the role they play in bringing up their children.  It then considers some of the differences in the relationship between fathers and sons versus fathers and daughters.  Finally it will cover some core parenting skills that really enable dads to parent in a positive way and get the very best out of their relationship with their children.

Seminar outline:

  • Role of a 21st century dad
  • Different parenting styles – what kind of dad do you want to be?
  • Relationship between fathers and sons
  • Relationship between fathers and daughters
  • Core positive parenting skills to develop real connection and communication: Motivation and Emotion Coaching

The seminar includes:

  • Personal attention and feedback in an informal atmosphere, discussion encouraged
  • An invaluable booklet complete with information covered on the seminar
  • Post course advice available by email or telephone

Cost: £50 per person

 email: rvecht@educatingmatters.co.uk to book

 

 

 

 

 

What is the role of a father?

How has the role of a father changed?

A few weeks ago I ran a session just for fathers at an American law firm and it generated some fascinating questions and a very interesting discussion. The traditional pattern of the father being the breadwinner whilst the mother is at home looking after the children has changed enormously in our generation. The average time fathers spend with their children has risen by 1100% since the 1970s from 15 minutes to 3 hours!

My youngest brother became a father this week and I even see a big difference between his whole involvement in preparing for the birth and what happened when I had my first child 15 years ago.  Of course it is down to the individual too.  He even had an app on his phone to record the time and length of contractions!!!!

Mothers no longer have the monopoly on worrying about work-life balance and just in the last few years, I have heard fathers increasingly speaking about the pressure they feel to fulfill their responsibilities both at work and at home. Fathers genuinely want to be more involved in the second shift after work – looking after the kids and managing the household. Many speak about being prepared to take a pay cut so they can work more flexibly and be with their kids.

What is the key role that fathers play?

Firstly to coin a phrase from a Yale psychologist, ‘Fathers don’t mother’.

Research clearly shows that when a father or significant male carer is involved in a child’s life, the benefits for the child are:

  • Happier at home
  • Perform better academically in school
  • More emotionally intelligent
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Better social development
  • More financially stable as an adult

I am generalising here but there are some specific ways that fathers contribute to family life:

Play 

Dad’s play is usually more physical, adventurous and unpredictable. Children develop co-ordination and the ability to regulate their own strength and handle peers.

Encouraging risk

Fathers encourage more independence, competition and really embracing challenges. For example there was a swimming pool study. When a young child is learning to jump in the pool, a father is likely to stand on the side of the pool behind a child, the mother will be in the pool with her arms outstretched.

Protection

Children with actively involved fathers have less depression, self-harm, less likely to engage in criminal activity and less teenage pregnancies. Essentially an increased chance of good mental health.

Educate

A father’s contribution to language development of a young child has been proven to be more important than a mother’s because dads tend to use a broader vocabulary and more imaginative discussion. Fathers reading with their children is one of the most consistent indicators of academic achievement later in life.

Modelling 

About 80% of parenting is modelling – I know a pretty scary thought! Fathers teach sons what it means to be a man, how to act and how to treat women. Daughters learn from their fathers how to expect to relate to males and they provide a standard for how to be treated.

“It’s been said if mothers entering the workforce was probably one of the most significant social developments of the twentieth century, then fathers’ increased participation in family life will be the social revolution of the 21st century.” (Tina Miller, Oxford University).

A great website for dads: http://dad.info/