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Han-Son Lee wants to open up a new conversation about what it means to be a dad in the 21st century. He seems to have tapped into a real demand from other fathers. Daddlife, the online community he founded last year, has already got 30,000 followers and has collaborated with other organisations such as Working Families.
Awareness is increasing to such an extent that Han-Son has just won the Pitman Training’s SuperAchievers award for Working Dad of the Year.
The idea for Daddilife came from Han-Son and some dads he had met through NCT when his son Max was born two and a half years ago. “We had all these questions about fatherhood,” he says. Han-Son knew there was a lot of wonderful information around for mums, but there was little for dads and what he did find seemed to be written from the perspective of how dads could help mums. “All roads seemed to lead to mums,” says Han-Son.
He felt there needed to be a different conversation and that there was an appetite for this from millennial dads. Research showed they wanted to be more hands on and that many wanted to make up for the lack of closeness with their own dads, whether as a result of long working hours or divorce/separation.
At the same time there was a growing interest in the role of dads due to the Shared Parental Leave legislation. Daddilife has just done a survey with Working Families which showed 57% of dads would like to take SPL.
By dads for dads
So Han-Son started a Facebook page. Dads responded with insights about their own situations and Daddilife evolved from there. He says the way dads want to be talked to differs from how mums sites talk to their readers. “We’re not a cut and paste of mums’ sites,” he states. The main point is that it is a dads’ site led by dads and targeted at dads. The articles on the site range from weekly tips and advice, such as how to exercise with a baby to work life balance tips, how to do night feeds and reports on burnout and work life balance. There is a lot of humour too, information about hobbies and surprising tips, such as that blowing bubbles on the toilet helps toddlers exercise the muscle that helps them in potty training. One section of the site is given over to the Rise of the Modern-Day Dad guide which talks about a “new dad era”.
Han-Son says: “It’s really about helping dads. We want to be a source dads can trust and we want to facilitate conversations between dads.” He adds that dads may not be as open about communicating as mums which is why Daddilife has a closed Facebook group.
Han-Son runs a small marketing team in a digital advertising agency in the City, occasionally working from home, and does Daddilife in his spare time, assisted by a group of other dads. He is passionate about family friendly working and says one of the big issues for dads is burnout. He is well aware of the benefits and drawbacks of technology which enables remote working but also means many never switch off. He adds that with social media, many are now glued to their screens most of the time, with potential negative impacts on their mental health. He thinks it is important to find time – if only “micromoments” – to switch off. For instance, he makes a point not to look at his phone for two to three hours when he comes home from work so he can have time with his son.
His partner runs her own company and went back to work after three months of maternity leave, initially one day a week and then gradually building up her hours. Work is important to her identity, he says, just as childcare is an increasingly important part of dads’ identities. He would like to see shared parenting established from birth and favours the Scandinavian model of daddy leave based on a ‘use it or lose it’ approach.
Over the next few months Daddilife is undergoing a facelift in order to promote all the material on it better. It is also launching a social media campaign with parenting experts about what modern family life is like. Han-Son wants to see a much broader conversation about that, involving both mums and dads.