Dad's the word as men take on childcare

Men are playing an increasingly vital role in looking after children. Are we ignoring the plight of men?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 28 Jan 2011
In the days of yore, every little girl worth her Easy-Bake Oven knew that mummies did the cooking and cleaning while daddies went out to work. (Thankfully) not any more, though: researchers at Lancaster University have confirmed that men are playing an increasingly important role in the lives of their offspring, with a growing number opting to work flexibly or stay at home altogether, allowing their partners to bring home some of the bacon, too.

But while the typical housewife might finally be consigned to the history books in the very near future, it seems that business’ attitudes towards working dads are more difficult to change. Should they be doing more to support fathers?

The research, by Lancaster University, found that more than a fifth of fathers of children under five have to look after them alone at least once during the course of the typical working week. It also showed that 43% of dads of children who are school-aged have to provide care before or after school, and in just over 4% of two-parent families, the women are the ones who go out to work, while the dads work on a full- or part-time basis (although it’s worth noting that the recession forced lots of women into work against their will after their partners were made redundant. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing).

Oddly, it also found that men with two children are less stressed than those with one or three, as are men who do more housework. So a ‘hard day’ will never again be a valid excuse not to do the hoovering...

Businesses, though, haven’t quite caught up with the nation’s progressive new take on childcare. Flexible working options are, according to the research, less freely available in male-dominated workplaces, with fewer requests for flexitime being granted to men. Even the law’s not necessarily on their side: on the whole, men tend to win fewer tribunal cases. Then again, men aren’t doing much to help themselves: apparently, not as many of them are putting in requests to be allowed to work flexibly in the first place. So - food for thought for businesses, many of which allow special arrangements for women, but are still slow when it comes to doing the same for men...

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