Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thanks for white ribbons and other things

Today, most of the USA will be ensconced in its Thanksgiving celebrations, and I know that lots of fathers there are looking forward to the family time that this often brings. With all this thanks going on today, I’ve decided to throw my lot into the melting pot too.

In my research, fathers expressed their thanks for a number of different things:
- Thanks that my ill wife recovered and was able to have a natural birth
- Thanks that I have a healthy child
- Thanks that I have a happy child
- Thanks to my partner for being the best mum for my child
- Thanks to my parents who provide essential and loving childcare
- Thanks to my employer’s who give me the flexi-hours I need so that I can pick my daughter up from childcare
- Thanks to my employer who gives me the time off when family complications arise
- Thanks for asking me to take part in this research; I never thought I had a story to tell
- Thanks for listening and not judging me.

And my personal thanks go to:
- the Economic and Social Research Council who funded mine and other important research in the UK
- my loving and supportive family
- the dads I’ve talked with on the internet
- and a whole bunch of people who’ve helped me develop a web presence for my Dad Thing.

But for all this thanksgiving, my research with fathers also highlighted a number of areas in which dads would be thankful to see some change. For example many dads:
- felt that their role was not seen as being as important or natural as a mothers
- felt that society was overly fearful of men’s involvement with young children and that this prevented many men from getting involved in childcare
- wished that employers and the government treated fathers with more respect and offered more support.

Today is also White Ribbon Day where people wear a white ribbon as a sign of their commitment and oath to help end violence against women. Significantly, the White Ribbon Campaign is one of the first male-oriented organisations to oppose violence against women. For this, many girls, women, children, fathers and families will be thankful. So are you wearing your white ribbon today?

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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Good dad button?

Twitter, facebook, blogs - everyone's flittering on about buttons and badges.  And that's not just across social media. A similar thing happens in everyday life as we search for positive affirmations about our behaviour.  There is so much in the media and on people's lips about good dads, bad dads, good mums, bad mums.  And there's an awful lot of stuff going on right now about good dads and good men. 

As a fatherhood researcher, people often look to me for a nod on this.  I've written a bit about that on this blog before, but today I'm guest-posting over at the Enterprise Nation website.  Pop over and take a look.

Happy badge-hunting (wink)!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Playing dad's way

Her big eyes widen in surprised delight every time she’s lifted up high above your head. And she beams as she comes down, caught safely in your warm hands. You’re laughing and she’s laughing, and it feels good to be a dad.

Often, this ‘rough and tumble’ is seen to be a dad-thing, enjoyed by both dad and child. Encouraging risks in play - climb the tree a bit higher, balance on the wall – are the kinds of risky play that are often viewed as stereotypically ‘dad’. But many fathers want to play this way. James thought that the risky side of play was “probably what being dad’s all about” because it was something that dads often did differently to mums.

Tony, who shared the childcare of his toddler with his wife, said:“I play rough with James in a way that my wife doesn’t. Women don’t get male rough play, but male animals just enjoy - and it’s fun. It’s fun for me to throw James around and he loves it. There are ways that men play with children which are different from the way women do. And there are ways men are with children which are just different from the ways women are.”

Charlie, a full-time childcare worker with a new baby wondered whether men were more involved in the “physical play and things with children. I’m very much a rough and tumbler with Jasmine - even though she’s so tiny. And Anna (ed. his wife) to a certain degree does, but Anna’s very much more strokey, strokey, carey, carey.”

Others fathers have commented how some activities – like coffee mornings and chats – are enjoyed more by mums than by dads. And other research with fathers who take on primary childcare roles often point out how dads tend to do activities with the children that are linked to the father’s interests, like sport (Brandth & Kvande 1998, Doucet 2006).

What do you think? Do you play with your children in ways that are different to your partner? Would you rather roll around with your children or paint a picture? Is rough play a dad-thing? And does it depend on the time of day?

Add your thoughts in the comments box below.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Men's Hour: are you listening?

Men’s Hour on Radio 5 Live! Of course I was intrigued – but sceptical nonetheless. It was airing at 7.30pm on a Sunday evening. I knew none of our household (nor probably any household we knew) would be tuning in at that time. Most families would probably still be in the throes of dinner, bedtimes and are-we-ready-for-Monday-morning. Other men might be having fun or – as has also been pointed out – watching Top Gear.

And then the bigger question, of course, was whether the programme title was likely to hook any readers. As a fatherhood researcher I was alerted, and as a woman I was curious to quietly listen in to an exclusive boys’ club. A bit voyeuristic, I know….but I suspected not that many secrets were going to be aired.

Sadly, I’ve never got around to reviewing the programme and this is probably going to be the closest I ever get. Because, I have never listened to Men’s Hour! When I questioned its broadcast time, others suggested I use BBC iPlayer to catch up with it. But not only is it on at a strange time, it’s not available on iPlayer. [update: it is on iPlayer - just maybe not on sunday mornings :)]. So Men’s Hour will just have to chug along without me….But, from the reviews out there, I think my voyeurism might be better fulfilled down at the pub!

For those who think they might be free at 7.30pm on Sundays (UK time), here’s the BBC info.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Are you a good dad? Hmmm........

So you do research with fathers? A couple of men turn their heads sharply in my direction. The women watch through the corner of their eyes – yes, we know you’re listening. But one or two men step closer creating a safer space to talk about ‘gender-wars’. They’re curious…..and so am I. What’s she going to say? What are they going to say?

We talk about all sorts of things: childcare, car sickness, work hours, money, pressure, boredom, relationships, leisure, love and film lists, male instincts - and guilt. Yes, guilt – always guilt. Because at the end of the day, the conversation is almost always about reassurance and affirmation: I think I’m a good dad….but do you, objective-researcher-who-is-a-mother, think I am?

Are you a good dad? Heck, I don’t know. Am I a good mum? There are things you could do differently and I will draw on my research findings to make suggestions. But, I’m sure there are things that your children, partner and friends would like you to do differently. Ask them, they’ll have a much better answer than I do. I wonder if they ever do….

Funny thing is, the mums who were eyeing the conversation never ask what we spoke about.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Should Fathers Day be celebrated?

It’s June already…..and everywhere is reminding me that means it’s nearly Fathers Day. Now, I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand it’s great that fathers are being given recognition. But on the other hand, it’s simply commercialism and reinforces differences between mothers and fathers. I apply these thoughts to Mothers Day too.

A brief conversation with my 10 year old daughter this morning highlights the reason for my concern. I asked her to draw a picture with a baby for Fathers Day. In checking what my creative brief actually was, she suggested that she would draw a picture of a baby with a mother. Why, I wanted to know. “Because mothers should hold babies first, babies need to get to know the mother so that they can feed, fathers can hold the baby at home.”

I laughed – quite horrified, and we then had a bit of a debate. Despite my being the champion of fluid gender roles, I am the primary carer and that’s what my daughter sees. So, if my daughter thinks mothers and fathers should have different behaviour at such an early stage in parenting, my family still has a very long way to go in contributing to cultural changes about shared parenting!

Do your children see mothers and fathers as different?
Do you think Mothers Day and Fathers Day should be celebrated separately (or even at all)?

Leave your comments and vote in my poll on the left-hand sidebar.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Weekend is the daddy of all daddy shifts

It’s Friday and according to the results of my second snapshot poll, lots of fathers will be gearing up for their weekend daddy shift. My PhD research also indicated that weekends were seen as quality time that gives both family time and personal time.

My poll asked about when fathers take on childcare responsibilities. The weekend topped the list. Again, the poll was run live on two sites for a few weeks: this blog and a business networking site.

100% of respondents from the business networking site claimed that fathers took on childcare responsibilities at weekends. The results from this blog were more diverse, but still backed up weekends as being a prime daddy shift. On this blog, 62% put weekends as well as evenings as being daddy shift times. This was followed by a few hours during week days (56%). While these votes are anonymous, many of my blog’s readers are fathers who work from home or stay-at-home dads. 12% also indicated that the daddy shift is all day midweek, with one voter claiming that fathers never did any childcare.

Interestingly, 25% indicated other times. I am curious to know what these ‘other times’ are, so anyone who voted this or can think of any, please leave your comments. In my own research, these other times were linked to ‘events’ rather than regular and specific times of the week. For example, school holidays or when childcare arrangements break down. Many fathers step up to do a daddy shift in ‘emergencies’.

In my PhD research, fathers were doing a daddy shift when mothers were absent either because of paid work, leisure or because they could not get around. Significantly, it also took place around fathers’ work hours rather than around mothers’ work hours. Mothers were still changing their working patterns much more than fathers as a result of childcare. 25% of the fathers in this research were looking after children on their own during weekends or evenings. A similar number had also been doing this midweek during the daytime.

Midweek daycare was often undertaken by fathers who had flexible work arrangements and whose partners were earning more than they were. But this pattern fluctuated as employment circumstances altered over time. Many of these fathers had done this but were no longer doing it. A daddy shift over the weekend or on evenings is the easiest time for many fathers as it often falls outside of traditional core working hours. But, it is also the time that separated fathers are given to spend with their non-resident children.

Is the image of a ‘weekend dad’ becoming a stereotype for contemporary fatherhood? And how many fathers would change their working hours so that they can do childcare during the week?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Stepping up or aside - it's personal

In a post last week, I promised this week would be about when dads step up and when mum steps aside. But, I’ve been avoiding doing it…because it’s not something that is lightly written or spoken about. Perhaps one of the most controversial and emotional issues confronting shared parenting is whether or not dad chooses to absent himself from childcare and domestics, and whether or not mum plays the ‘gatekeeper’ and denies proper access to children.

A host of research provides different types of ‘evidence’ to back up both arguments. Is it that fathers encounter barriers such as policy, work commitments or social norms (Lewis 1986; Lewis and O’Brien 1987; Burgess 2008, 2005, 1997; Collier and Sheldon 2008; Fatherhood Institute 2008)? Or was it that some fathers did not really want to change and that their secondary position was not entirely enforced (Hochschild 1995 cited in Dermott 2008: 19; Lewis 1986; Dermott 2008). Michael Kimmel, a world-renowned fatherhood researcher claims that some fathers just don’t want to do housework. My own research corroborates this. But this doesn’t necessarily make them bad fathers. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t love or care about their partners.

Today I want to briefly explore how men might not step up and why mums might have to stayed stepped in. And to kick off the debate, I’m going to get personal and share my own experience.

There was one particular moment when our daughter was born that has stuck in my mind. After an emergency caesarean, baby and I were both in the hospital – me downstairs and she upstairs, both hooked up to all sorts. ‘Dad’ was the only one who could take on any active role. He saw our daughter, held her and discussed her health with the paediatrician long before I knew what was going on.

After a day or so, when I was moving about, the nurses launched us into childcare. As they left the room, the nurses muttered that maybe we should change her nappy. We looked at each other: change a nappy through incubator doors! Our first nappy change!

We’d joked about this before at our NCT classes: how do you dress a baby? So much for maternal instinct, I’d always dressed my dolls by placing them upside down on their heads. Funny though that neither NCT nor NHS nor parenting books had given guidance on how to change a nappy through incubator doors!

My partner and I both looked at each other. And then my heart sunk. He turned to me, ashen-faced: “Can you do it?” Why me? I can barely stand up, my blood pressure’s sky-high, I’ve been traumatised, my clothes don’t fit, I smell of milk, and I’ve never changed a real baby’s nappy. In the space of a couple of seconds, dad had defined his role and I had never felt so alone in my life. He had taken a firm step back and pushed me forward. I had no say in it. After all, I’m not going to argue about caring when someone really needs it, am I?

Of course, as the days went by, and weeks turned into months, and years, he was there and changed many a nappy. But he helped and supported. He did not want to be in the primary caring seat.

Next week is National Volunteers Week (1-7 June), so how about volunteering to look after the children, or cook, or go shopping, or make breakfast in bed, or let dad do it his way, or turn off your mobile and have a face-to-face chat. Don’t wait to be asked to ‘step up’ or ‘step aside’. Volunteer to take the initiative.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

An alluring case for a flexible, shedshaped working future

As many of my readers are parents who work from home in some form or another, here’s a slight diversion from my usual posts – a book review about shedworking! If you’ve ever thought of working from a shed in your garden (or even if you haven’t), this book will have you longing for one.

Shedworking: The alternative workplace revolution claims to be inspirational, and it certainly is that. It’s also alluring. Apart from the beautiful and story-rich photographs, the allure for me lies in the way Johnson combines both physical buildings and work-life theory in his vision of a “shedshaped” future.

In using ‘shedworking’ as a theoretical concept, Alex Johnson engages with social and economic debates to promote the benefits of a flexible working environment on the grounds of increased productivity, better work-life balance and environmentalism. He claims that the future of working is “shedshaped”, that more and more people are going to be turning towards “shoffices” and “shudios” as their workplaces of choice.
The text is peppered with Johnson’s characteristic humour and stories of extraordinary shedworkers. I took great personal delight in his references to the likes of Alice Walker, Jeanette Winterson, and of course, Virginia Woolf. For others, there’s 007 and descriptions of OMD’s immobile lorry office are reminiscent of the original Knight Rider.
Drawing on Woolf, Johnson suggests that it is the thought of “an office of one’s own” that is at the heart of the shedworking appeal: a workspace where people have the flexibility to exercise personal choice over when and how they work, and in how it’s decorated too.
Shedworking also provides pages of information on how to go about buying or even building your own shed (or somewhat grander garden office), with details for suppliers and the legal bits too. It is at once a practical resource, a coffee table delight and a lightly cajoling philosophical debate about our future working lives.

My 10 year old peered curiously over my shoulder while I was reading, and displayed a reasonable level of interest: what was the book about? She laughed in disbelief: “They’re not sheds. You don’t use sheds! Sheds are just for storing things in.” She looked at me, and then smiled. “Oh mum,” she sighed, “you want a shed now, don’t you?”

More details about the book can be found at

Friday, 21 May 2010

Baby's Here! Who Does What?

Baby’s Here! Who Does What? presents Duncan Fisher’s argument against splitting parenting into two traditionally gendered roles. He argues that some sharing – even if it’s not equal – is more fair, good for children, and good for couple relationships. However, across all six chapters, Fisher’s key message is that whatever parents do, “don’t sleep-walk – talk”. The book succeeds in offering good tips on how to go about being a parent and a partner too.

The book provides an easy introduction to the relationship issues that new parents will face. Many new parenting books focus on the how-tos and the how-nots of babycare, but very few focus on the nitty-gritties of how parents share this care.

But don’t be fooled by the book’s packaging in an easy-reading format with colourful comic illustrations. This masks what are difficult (and often taboo) questions. It really is a call to action.

As a staunch advocate of inclusive fatherhood, Fisher has written the book for both fathers and mothers. He challenges them to do some active thinking, asking and discussing about the stereotypes that all too many of us just accept as mother or father roles. Really, he is arguing that both parents need courage: courage to think and talk about these issues, courage for mothers to stand aside, and courage for fathers to step up and sometimes be a ‘trail-blazer’ dad.

Taking action is made easier for the reader as Fisher adopts a workbook style call to action at the end of each chapter in his pointers for ‘kitchen table talk’. These consist of questions that parents could ask themselves and their partner.

For any parent-to-be or new parents, this book provides a quick guide to kick-start some possibly not-yet-thought-of decisions. I would even go so far as to recommend that all ante-natal and post-natal care services make it available as essential reading for all new parents.

Now of course I don’t agree with everything that Fisher argues or suggests, but nor would he expect that of me. And nor does he expect that of fathers or mothers. What he would like, and what I would like too, is for everyone to bring these issues into the open in a far more honest manner than we previously have done.

Fisher hopes that the sale of this book will help to fund the distribution of free information to parents through maternity services. Further book talk can be continued on – although I think he should have called it

Next week I pick up on the issue of fathers stepping up and mum stepping aside.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Parental Leave in Canada: Progressive Policy vs. Antiquated Stereotypes

A warm welcome to my first guest blogger all the way from beautiful Vancouver! Cameron Phillips of Bettermen Solutions takes a look at parental leave in Canada.

“I am prepared to unload a legal cannon on my employer if that is what it takes,” says first time Albertan father, Will Green, “though that probably will mean that I will also be looking for a new job.”

Green wants to take parental leave from his upper management job, but he’s not having much luck. He takes little solace in the fact that he is not alone. The discrepancy between Canadian men who want to take parental leave and those who actually do is stark.

In many respects, Canadian parental leave is progressive. Women are given 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, often supplemented by their employer. After these 15 weeks, an additional 35 weeks of paid governmental leave can be split between a couple to use as they see fit. Some truly progressive employers offer dads salary top-ups if they choose to take a leave. It is no Sweden, but Canadians feel quite smug and satisfied when we view our neighbours to the south, forever espousing “family values” but failing to offer a single day of government paid parental leave.

This begs the question, with a relatively “father friendly” policy in place, why do fewer men end up taking parental leave than those who wish to do so? As Green’s case demonstrates, policy is one thing and workplace culture is another.

In his attempts to take his leave, Green has been told everything from, “You’re too valuable to the company” to “We can’t afford to cover for you while you are gone.” It is the more subtle resistance, however, that Green finds so impassable. These are the sorts of workplace-culture comments that suggest he has his priorities askew by not putting his job ahead of his family, or worse, that he is of more value to his family at the office rather than at home.

And then there is the cowboy culture of the Canadian West.

“In Alberta my wish to take a parental leave is not finding much support,” Green laments. “It seems it is just something that men in Alberta do not do for the most part.”

While on paper it would appear that policy trumps antiquated gender roles, reality would suggest that the old stereotypes, which ultimately judge a woman by her parenting skills and a man by his earning potential, are alive and thriving.

Cameron Phillips is the president and founder of Bettermen Solutions ( located in Vancouver, Canada. He gives corporate keynotes and workshops, designed to improve employee retention and workplace productivity through empowering men with better work life balance skills.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Fathers need supportive employers during tough economic times

In a guest posting in Canada today, I argue that fatherhood can create a stressful work-life balance for men so in tough economic times, supportive employers are important. I suggest that both policy and fathers' practice is pointing towards flexible working as the option that reduces the costs of work-life balance most.

Read my full posting at Better Men Solutions, a Canadian based business providing keynotes and workshops helping men achieve better work-life balance.

And watch out for great guest blogs on here this week.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The daddy shift: when do fathers care?

The majority of fathers in the UK work full-time jobs while a high percentage of mothers work part-time and their reference to a double-shift of paid work and unpaid childcare remains common. For these parents, the ‘daddy shift’ in childcare is often very important. By the ‘daddy shift’ I am referring to childcare that fathers do on their own. And the numbers of fathers involved in doing this is growing. In my research, just under half of the fathers interviewed were doing the ‘daddy shift’

The daddy shift is important for mothers who want a break from childcare or who want or need to earn money. The daddy shift is also important for those working fathers who want to develop caring and loving relationships with their children.

The daddy shift tends to take place in the evenings or on weekends – outside of typical working hours. These times are often seen as being family time or quality time that is off-limits to employers. For a growing minority, the daddy shift also takes place during the day (Mon – Fri), times which are traditionally for mother care.

Interestingly, in my research, the daddy shift took place because mothers were absent from the home or unavailable to care. This is either due to paid work, education, leisure or illness. Many fathers said that the daddy shift – looking after children on your own – was hard work. This was especially the case with young children and for long stretches of time. Many fathers claimed that needing a break from fulltime childcare was necessary for them. It is often after experiencing the ‘daddy shift’ that fathers either choose to become more involved and to share the care with mothers – or to back away from it.

Importantly, many fathers looked to other fathers to see what they were doing. The more that people talk about sharing care and doing things differently, the more ‘ordinary’ the daddy shift will become….to the point where it is no longer a shift but a way of life.

To help make this change, add your comments here, vote in this blog’s poll, or have a look at my article on the Enterprise Nation website.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Quizzing the ways parents work it out

Working Families has launched two little quizzes for parents to help them think about their work goals and finances. It then provides contact details where people can go for help if they feel they are having problems.

The first quiz: I can work it out compares your ideal working patterns with your reality. Yours truly is apparently STRESSED about her work-life balance (which made me laugh).

The second quiz: We can work it out asks questions about how you feel about money. Your partner also has to answer the same questions before getting the results. I stopped before this point.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Why dads should vote for women

Now here’s a debate to froth at the mouth about – and then chew on. Digestion may be difficult.

For many years, women have moaned that the care work they do goes unseen. Many have rallied that this creates a burden with long term effects for women as individuals and as a social group. Making childcare a man’s issue too has been at the forefront of many calls for a new, modern fatherhood. This fatherhood is one that is more involved in daily childcare and that expresses love and care in a more open way.

While women and mothers have led the way (for a variety of reasons) some fathers echo similar calls. Certainly the rhetoric of a contemporary fatherhood is heard far and wide in the UK. And since 1997, new Labour did make policy headway in making childcare a man’s issue too.

But I want to put forward a case as to why voting for women parliamentary candidates can make a difference to fathers who want to contemporary fatherhood to become an easier and more achievable practice.

The crux of my argument comes down to visibility: more women MPs will make care a more visible public issue. Pregnancy, birth and childcare are still often a women-centred time and place. For example, a large number of fathers testify to the lack of a father-presence at playgroups. The majority of fathers in my own research expressed concerns about how society viewed the safety of men’s involvement in childcare. Many employers don’t even know if any fathers work for them.

But women’s visibility in care is far more inevitable: because they get pregnant. For about nine months their bodies give it away. And for a few months more, the law means they have to be absent from work for health reasons. Chances are, your woman MP may have experienced this. She’s going to be more likely to want fathers more involved if only because it makes life easier for her. Thatcher of course, squashes my argument. But I’m ever hopeful……….

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

First poll results show polarisation on fathers’ part-time working

My first poll, run for most of April has now closed. It asked whether people knew fathers who wanted to work part-time. The poll was conducted online on two separate sites, and the results suggest that different interest groups may still retain polarised views on this issue. What this small sample also highlights is that where you look for answers can influence the results that you find.

While a significant minority across both polls knew one father who wanted to work part-time, the majority view was opposed at the other ends of the spectrum. On this blog’s poll, the majority (50%) know lots of fathers who want to work part-time. The other poll, conducted on a business networking site, showed that a larger majority (62%) did not know any fathers who wanted to work part-time.

The sample of fathers in my PhD research were overwhelmingly opposed to part-time working as it was associated with women, low pay, and low status jobs. Flexible working patterns were viewed far more favourably.

The results from this blog’s poll, favouring part-time working for fathers, suggest that the ways we organise – and value - work really do need to enable diverse practices.

Poll Results:
1. I know lots of fathers who want to work part-time:
Blog poll: 50% Business Poll: 12%

2. I know one father who wants to work part-time:
Blog poll: 33% Business Poll: 25%

3. I don’t know any fathers who want to work part-time:

Blog poll: 16% Business Poll: 62%

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Last day to vote in fathers and part-time working poll

If you haven't done so yet, vote in my poll. All April, I've been asking people to vote on whether they know any fathers who want to work part-time. If you want to have your say, then vote in this blog's poll (in the lefthand sidebar of this blog).

Results and analysis from different sources in tomorrow.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Just launched! Duncan Fisher’s new book sales to fund early parenthood support

Baby’s Here: Who Does What? Duncan Fisher’s newly published book about sharing parenting roles – not just swapping - is now available on Amazon. Sales from this book will help to fund the distribution of information to new parents through maternity services. A big and respected voice in the debates about mothers and fathers, who earns and who cares, Duncan was a co-founder of the Fatherhood Institute and has been awarded an OBE for services to children.

To all fathers, mothers and social citizens, please help to make a difference and join the debates.

For more about Duncan, visit

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Working from home....fathers who break the mould

Working from home can provide a convenient option for juggling work, care and life. But it has its problems too. My article on how fathers can break the status quo by working from home can be viewed on the Enterprise Nation website. Enterprise Nation is a free resource for home businesses.

Any other dads out there who work from home or are thinking of doing so? And mums, what do you think?

Alex Johnson is a dad who works from home. And he certainly has a shedload of tips for others who do the same. Seriously, I mean a shedload.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A mother's care is seen as primary and best

Widespread social attitudes about both work and care are still deeply gendered. The result is that fathers continue to be seen - by others and themselves - as secondary carers for their children. This is the predominant view that was expressed by fathers in my research. A mother's care was often seen as more essential to children - especially infants and young toddlers. Expressions of a mother's care as best were linked to issues of biological reproduction, cultural upbringing, and many fathers feelings of inadequacy as male carers. Despite huge changes in women's rights and gender equalities in the UK, society as a whole still needs to look more honestly at how we box both care and work into gendered roles.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Do fathers want to work part time?

In my research, reduced work hours was a practice most frequently and acceptably practiced by the fathers’ partners (the mothers). Six fathers had formally reduced their working hours but 21 mothers were either working reduced hours or had stopped working as a consequence of motherhood. Reduced hours was not a constant trend in any one fathers’ working life. Interestingly, Tom (who had reduced his work week to 30 hours) did not refer to his work pattern as being a part-time.

I am running a poll on this blog to see how many men people know who want to work part-time. Is part-time working something that men (and especially fathers) would choose to do? Or, is part-time working for women only?

Take part in the poll and add any comments here.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Flexible working for fathers

Barack Obama spoke out yesterday about the need for flexible workplace options for both men and women (click here). In the UK, flexible work practices are widely lauded although its policy implementation is widely voluntaristic and individualised.

Mine and other research suggests that flexibility can enhance work-life balance for families (Dermott 2008: 6; Hill et al., 2001 cited in Vandeweyer and Glorieux 2008: 272; Lamb et al 1987: 115). However, much research also suggests that flexible working is not always a positive solution for workers (Moss 1995: xiv; Brandth and Kvande 2002; Christensen and Staines 1990 cited in Vandeweyer and Glorieux 2008: 272; Pollert 1988 cited in Crompton 2006: 5; Lamb et al 1987; O’Brien and Shemilt 2003).

While flexible options, particularly part-time working, are more frequently taken up by women, many fathers use some form of flexible working to help their family's work life balance. This is often through the use of either informal or formal flexi-time arrangements, or through home working.

What are your experiences? Do you work from home? Does your employer offer flexi-time solutions that suit your child care needs?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Paternity leave rights confusion for fathers

Working Families, a leading UK work-life balance organisation, identified fathers as one of five problem areas for policy in a report published this month. It identifies the long notice period and service requirements as excluding a number of potential fathers from receiving paternity leave entitlements. The report is based on data from the Working Families helpline calls received during 2009.

These findings are consistent with findings from my research in which a number of fathers expressed confusion over when they were expected to notify their human resources department about their intention to take paternity leave. Babies do not tend to clock-watch their arrival and many fathers were adamant that they did not know when the baby would be born. One father went on paternity leave before his overdue-baby was born.

Another father was horrified when he was told that he did not qualify for paternity leave because he had only been with the company for two months. The way he saw it was that paternity leave was "for the birth and to help out with the family. It’s not that you’re trying to skive or bunk off work.”

I join with Working Families, and argue that all fathers should be entitled to levels of statutory paternity support regardless of their employment status.

Click here for the Working Families report.
Details of workplace rights for fathers can be found here.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Fathers Story Week 14-20 June

Get involved! The Fatherhood Institute (and partner organisations) has launched a website to encourage educational organisations to focus on fathers for one week. Fathers Story Week runs from 14-20 June 2010, and the website offers a number of free resources and ideas for all children up to Key Stage 2. The week also includes a Bring Your Dad to School Day on Fri 18 June where children can dress up as their dad (or other father figure) and maybe bring him along on the school run too.

Pass this link onto your local school or child care provider and encourage them to get involved. Tell your employers about it too, so that they can encourage dads to take part.

More details can be found at

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Recession, fathers and work life balance

Has the sceptre of recession cut through the issue of work life balance for fathers? As most research with fathers shows, finances are a significant factor in shaping work and care patterns. So when redundancies bite and job insecurity threatens, does the work side weigh more heavily on people's minds?

Or, does the current employment climate highlight the importance of the life side even more, and so provide opportunities for trying to work and live differently?

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Modern fathers struggle to provide ‘the whole package’

“The dad that always goes out to work …(…)… definitely wouldn’t have a relationship with the kids … you know, would just provide money and that would be it.

Where now, … it’s different. In that you’re trying to be a whole package …(…)…you’re trying to be there for them and you’re trying to provide for them … not only financially but you know emotionally, physically. You just, you try to be the complete and whole package, and I think that to me is a perfect father.”

Quote from Nigel (31), father of 3

Further details from my research can be found on the About page of this blog. More information will be added soon.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Workplaces must champion men as fathers

Findings from my doctoral research suggest that fathers struggle to combine the identities of man, worker and father when they are in the workplace. Employment policy and individual employers could do more to champion the idea that good male workers can also be caring fathers. A work culture change like this could go a long way in changing our views on the best ways to work effectively.

Further details will be updated onto pages of this blog soon.
Please leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Pansy fathers?

Today's Virgin Media homepage features 'Not so tough guys: when action heroes turn pansy'. Listing a number of action hero actors who have opted for parts that see them taking on a male childcare role. Since when was childcare for 'pansies'? Media headlines like these will continue to make it difficult for fathers to become more involved in the care of their children.

Contemporary fatherhood spurns long work hours

Findings from my doctoral research with UK fathers suggests that fathers' today would prefer not to work long hours, but often struggle to reduce these hours. Current UK parental leave schemes do not support fathers who want to actively change their work patterns.

Further details will be uploaded onto pages of this blog soon.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Debating Fatherhood and Gender Equality

This blog aims to stimulate debates about fatherhood and gender equality.

As a starting point, there are pages which provide details of my own doctoral research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). My thesis is entitled Jostling for Position: Fathers negotiating work and care.

There are also pages which provide useful links to other sites that offer information on fatherhood, work-life balance and gender equality.

I would love to hear from everybody about the challenges, solutions and good times that they have had in creating and living their own work-life balance.