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?