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……….