Category Archives: Dads

Baby steps towards parenting equality

When I was growing up in a market town in Somerset, dads went to work and provided, and mums looked after the house and made sure everyone was fed.  We didn’t know any gangsters, so my dad was the first person I knew who had a Carphone (back when The Carphone Warehouse seemed like the obvious name for a business).

He was a surveyor, out on the road in Somerset – calling in his reports over the phone to be typed up in the office. But despite the technology there never seemed any danger of being ‘always on’, technology was an enabler.

In fact, my dad even had flexible working – he scheduled his own diary of house surveyor visits and frequently made his schedule fit the away sports matches my brother and I were involved in on Wednesdays.

30 years on I can look back and appreciate that he had the type of hands on involved parenting opportunity that many men today are striving to achieve.

Flexible working and Paternity Leave initiatives are bound up together. They both represent potential opportunities to support the desire of a new generation of men to have greater involvement in raising their children and by doing so to move towards equality of opportunity in the home and the workplace for both genders.

There’s a long way to go to normalise equality of choice when it comes to parenting but on International Men’s Day it’s good to reflect on some of the key milestones towards parenting equality.

Key Milestones

  • 1999 Set up of the Fatherhood Institute – “a great dad for every child”
  • 2003 Statutory Paternity Leave

In 2001, Gordon Brown included men’s right to paternity leave in his Budget and, from 2003, male employees received paid statutory paternity leave for the first time.

  • 2011 Additional Paternity Leave

Fathers were given the right to take six months statutory paternity leave while their partners returned to work, in effect taking the place of the mother at home.

  • 2014 Flexible Working Rights

The right to request flexible working was extended to all UK employees with at least 26 weeks’ service with the same employer on 30 June 2014.

  • 2015 Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave allows you to share up to 50 weeks’ parental leave and 37 weeks’ pay with your partner. Each parent can take up to three blocks of leave, more if their employer allows, interspersed with periods of work.

  • 2017 Aviva set the bar high for parental leave

From November 2017 Aviva became the first UK firm to offer up to one year of leave, of which 26 weeks’ is at full basic pay for each parent employed by the company within the first 12 months of a child’s arrival.

  • 2018 NZ Prime Minister takes Maternity Leave

Jacinda Arden took 6 weeks of maternity leave while in office and then her partner, a TV presenter, became a stay-at-home dad to baby Neve, a great example of showing that no job is too big for spending time with your children.

When they became the first to offer 9 months full pay parental leave.

More to be done

I was amazed to discover that paid paternity leave has only been around since 2003 in the UK and even 15 years on, when a child is born the dad (or the other parent or partner) gets just two weeks statutory paternity leave paid at £148.68 per week, less than half of minimum wage. 

Shared parental leave uptake is very low:

Analysis by the University of Birmingham found only 9,200 new parents (just over 1% of those entitled) took shared parental leave in 2017-18. That increased to 10,700 in the financial year 2018-19.

Just as additional leave suffered too

“Just 1.4% of new fathers taking it in 2012-13. In 2011-12, the first year the scheme was in operation, just 0.8% of eligible dads took advantage of it.”

What can be done

Two things need to be addressed

  1. Financial constraints – Fathers are much more likely to already be earning more than their partners and therefore find it harder to take leave at statutory rates
  2. Cultural constraints – the question of where society, employers and men perceive they belong. Too often we casually default to assume men to be the main breadwinners and women as the primary carers.

The Labour party pledge in 2015 to double the length and pay of statutory paternity leave had potential to be a big step in the right direction https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31253409. but has sadly disappeared to be replaced by increased maternity leave – to find out why that is problematic you’ll need to read this https://www.daddilife.com/labour-maternity-and-men/

Moves around the fringes of government are important indications as to which way the wind is blowing – even if parliamentary time seems taken up with other activity…

October 2018

In October 2018 the government announced that it planned to consult on a bill that would require large employers to publish their parental leave package. Read more here

July 2019

Helen Whately, Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent a introduced the flexible working bill, to make all jobs flexible by default unless the employer has a sound business reason why particular hours in a particular place are required. Read more here about what this #FlexforAll bill is all about.

Some good moves but in the UK we remain a way away from the gold standard of well paid, protected parental leave for fathers.

Why does parental leave matter?

Men Gain Empathy & Awareness of Bias

“Would my job be safe? What would it mean for my career? How would it impact my team?” Then, he adds: “It hit me like a freight train. These are worries that women in the workplace have been facing for generations”.

Source: FT – Time off for new fathers raises bias awareness

Not only that, but dads accessing parental leave has significant and long-lasting benefits towards equality in the household.

In households where men were given the opportunity to use this benefit, fathers’ daily time in household work was 23 percent higher, long after the leave period ended. 

Source: Council on Contemporary Families

Well paid protected leave is a key part of breaking cultural assumptions which perceive childcare as a woman’s job, it supports equality of choice in families and is good for mental health, relationships and women’s income prospects.

On International Men’s Day we should be setting the bar much higher than 2 weeks of below minimum wage leave. It does nothing for families, for fathers or for mothers.

This is what society and business needs:

  1. Day one flexible working as a default position for all.
  2. Equalise parental leave provisions for new parents.
  3. Provide men with paternity coaching before and after their paternity leave.
  4. Identify and support senior fatherhood role models.
  5. Create, support and persevere with fatherhood community initiatives in the workplace.

guest post by Ian Dinwiddy founder of Inspiring Dads

Fathers’ Day; The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Having just had Father’s Day, it’s worth reflecting on what dads really want. We know a lie in would be good, socks even better and maybe a novelty selection of real ales. But in terms of the workplace, dads just want to have options. Options about how to organise their working lives, without being told that they can’t raise their children or that being a committed dad means you can’t be committed to work.

A New Generation of Dads

A whole new generation of men want to be much more actively involved in raising their children. They expect equality in the workplace and at home and they are frustrated when their needs and the needs of their families can’t be met.

In short they want to be great dads and have great careers.

GQ magazine found that the number 1 aspect of modern masculinity, identified by 66% of Men was “being a present father”.

 Source: GQ Magazine

But it can be tough when this desire to be an active present father is dismissed or not taken seriously…

Dads are changing jobs to get what they want.

 

Daddilife and Deliotte Report – THE MILLENNIAL DAD AT WORK

Not all men or families are the same.

Income and childcare priorities change and for many heterosexual couples the certainty of a man being fully committed to his career, while a female partner takes on the majority of the childcare can give great comfort and certainty.

However we do an enormous disservice to society, the workplace and individuals when we assume that men don’t want to be fully involved as parents. That attitude is no more valid or helpful than assuming that women only want to stay at home and look after children.

Choices!

We need to allow couples to make genuine choices – both for their own benefit and for benefits of building gender diverse workplaces.

When we cannot tell whether a man or a woman is more likely to take parental leave or seek flexible working, gender ceases to be an issue in hiring and promotion decisions.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

As a man access to flexible work can be difficult to achieve. It can be seen as a perk of seniority or as something that solves a female childcare ‘issue’.

72% feared their employer’s reaction if they asked for flexible working.

Source: Workingdads.co.uk

But when it works well the benefits to the man, the family and their partner are clear to see as the ‘Good’ storyof Susha and Magnus and will show. The example of the ‘Bad’ show how a lack of flexibility for Dads will cost businesses their talent and the motivation and good will of their staff. Finally the ‘Ugly’ shines a light on the type of casual dismissive bias that one man faced trying to access part time work. It shows how attitudes towards men’s flexible and part time working desires can directly and negatively effect women’s aspirations.

Things will change but this Father’s Day we need to think about the next generation of Father’s Day.

“The current crop of male, mid-fifties business leaders are completely out of touch in respect to the changes to the role of the father that have taken place in the two decades since they were young dads.”

Source: Evening Standard Colo

The Good

Susha Chandrasekhar is a Senior Lawyer at the Department for Business.

Her husband is Dr Magnus Ryner, Professor of International Political Economy and Head of the Department of European & International Studies at Kings College, London

Their son is called Axel.

Susha kindly shared their story…

“I am a lawyer working part-time which is demanding since my responsibilities include EU issues. Fortunately, my husband’s (more than) full-time work can be carried out flexibly. He comes into and leaves the office at different times, works from home, and catches up on things in the evenings on the days he does the school pick-up. My husband is an academic which helps but professors have to teach, attend meetings, supervise students, undertake research etc. which require a physical presence in the office or a library. It’s still a juggling act.”


Here are the top 7 ways in which my husband’s flexible pattern improves my life.

1. Morning mayhem

My husband does the morning shift and the school run. That pressure is off me as soon as I wake up which is always a good start. I do the evening routine of bath-book-bed.

2. School pick-up

My husband does two school pick-ups a week so there are least two days on which:

·         I do not have to rush home and can deal with last minute work emergencies;

·         My husband helps our son with his reading and maths homework; and

·         There is dinner on the table for me when I come through the front door.

The other 3 weekdays on which I do the pick-ups, my husband gets these benefits in return.

3. Dealing with illness

It is not the default position that I drop everything and deal with a sick child. We see whose schedule is the more flexible. Sometimes it’s his.

4. Caring for Grandparents

There comes a time when our own parents need care. I value the chance to do this.

5. Finances

As we do the childcare ourselves, we do not need to employ a nanny which is expensive.

6. Reliability

If my husband says he will do something, he has the flexibility to do it. I feel assured it will be done without having to check up on it.

7. Frazzle factor

I can deal with the organisation of raising a child e.g. costumes, presents, dental appointments without too much stress. I also enjoy time with my family and friends instead of fretting non-stop about everything that needs to be done.

“No system is perfect and ours breaks down once in a while when the adventures of life are thrown at it. But one thing makes us truly happy. When our son cries out when he has a nightmare or has fallen over, he doesn’t just call for “Mummy, Mummy”, he calls for “Mummy-Daddy, Mummy-Daddy.” To him, we’re equally present, equally important. To us, his opinion is the most important one.”

The Bad – Losing Talented Staff

James wanted flexible working after the birth of his baby

He worked long hours for a private jet firm, but wanted more flexibility after his baby was born. While the official office hours were 9am to 6pm, in reality everyone was in the office until 8.30pm.

“If you didn’t do that it was frowned upon. I was struggling,” he says. He had been at the firm for four years and was one of its top sellers, so he asked for flexible working and expecting a positive response.

“I tried to talk to them several times, but it was always a blanket ‘no’ because they said others would want to do it too.”

In the end, he quit, and now the 28-year-old works for his father’s firm Bloomsbury Estates where he says he’s happy to work at home on weekends to catch up from when he leaves early in the week.

Source: BBC website

The Ugly – Trying to Get Part Time Work

‘Phil’ tried to get part time work in SW England so that he could support his partner’s work expansion plans by taking on more of the childcare responsibilities, including looking after a boy on the autism spectrum.

He struggled badly in the recruitment process and ended up having to take a full-time role.

Overqualified and bored?

Farcical the amount of times I have heard “overqualified” or “you would be bored” or “your skills wouldnt be used” in spite of yelling into peoples faces that I only wanted part time and 2 days a week would not be boring.

Could it be because you are a man?

It definitely is. One of the interviews I had I actually was told that I would probably be embarrassed being shown the systems by a 20 year old girl. “Considering my experience.”Ironically, i would say the most dismissive were female HR professionals, which makes it even more of a joke.ICasual sexism?

I think more unconscious bias as the notion that a white middle aged straight male with no disability under the Equality Act could feel discriminated against is laughable. I flip it round as well…  are we saying that part time ‘easy’ office work is the only thing young women or mums can do?

Unconscious Bias

As a footnote, the role I secured is the 1st full time role I applied for. But that was secured through a friend in recruitment who could see off the bias before it was made…



What do we need to do

Let’s forget the socks and real ale gift sets this year…

✅ Encourage and support dads to talk about the pressures they face.

✅ Normalise flexible and part time work for men.

✅ Senior men to lead by example – embracing flexible working opportunities – making it ok for men in the workplace to spend time with their kids.

✅ Change the working culture so that raising happy, successful children isn’t just a female thing.

Dads will be happier and more fulfilled and the opportunities for families to choose how best to arrange their working lives will increase.

Guest post by Ian Dinwiddy of Inspiring 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

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 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: https://www.dad.info/