Celebrating the modern dad

Much has been written about how the role of women has changed over the past generation. Women have far more options open to them than ever before. More women are not just working, they are employed in senior roles. Female undergraduates now outnumber their male counterparts. The recent General Election underlined this shift. The Conservatives, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens all have female leaders and there are a record number of women serving as MPs. Women have come along way, but in many ways the roles of men have changed just as much over the same period of time.

Thirty years ago, it would have extremely unusual for men to do the school run, let alone stay at home and be the main carer for their children. More than one in seven fathers are now stay at home dads. This situation is no longer seen as out of the ordinary, indicating that attitudes have shifted. Today’s generation of fathers expect not to just be there at the birth of their child, but for every step of the way as they grow from babies, into toddlers and then school age children. Many of today’s fathers will be just as comfortable changing a nappy or cooking dinner as their partners. Parenting has become much more of a partnership, with men taking a far more active role than their own fathers.

Society is embracing this new role. The introduction of flexible working laws has not just helped women juggle their work and home life responsibilities, they have helped men become more involved in the lives of their children too. They are now more able to have more time at home, be that doing the school run or getting back in time to do the evening bath. Flexible working is actually seen as the employee benefit that workers value the most, according to a recent survey.[1] Couples can now take shared parental leave after the birth of their child. While take up rates have been slow, only 4% of eligible fathers took advantage of it in the first three months after it was introduced, indications are that this number will rise as awareness grows and men share their positive experiences.

There is a wealth of evidence to show that children benefit significantly from spending more time with their fathers. New research has revealed that children benefit more from having their father read them a bedtime story than their mother. Men tend to ask more abstract questions, like “The boy is going on a bus, where did we go the last time we went on a bus?” These types of questions spark children’s imaginations and get them thinking about topics beyond the story that they’re reading. Children who have fathers who take an active role in their upbringing also tend to have fewer behavioural and psychological problems.

The rise of social media and blogging has allowed fathers to form their own networks and see others getting involved with their children’s lives and enjoying their role as a father. There are hundreds of men blogging about their experiences as a dad, sharing these with men across the country and encouraging others to do the same. It has become commonplace for men to talk much more about their children, really expressing how they feel about them and relishing their role as a dad.

With Father’s Day coming up on Sunday 18th June, it’s a great chance to reflect on these changes and celebrate the fact that men are spending more time with their children, getting the chance to enjoy seeing them grow up and be a positive influence on them. Boys growing up today have some amazing role models to follow and will see being a hands-on father as the norm, rather than the exception.

Being a responsible father is about keeping your children safe and secure. Nobody likes to think about bad things happening, but the tragic events that have occurred in the last few months serve to remind us that they could happen to any of us. It’s worth fathers, and mothers, taking a just few minutes to review what protection they have in place should the worse happen. Once that’s done they can have the peace of mind to get on with living life to the full. Happy Father’s Day everyone!

[1] Survey of 1000 employees by Grass Roots, September 2016

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