This weekend was Father’s Day. We asked Daddilife what their research shows about dads’ experiences during lockdown while one dad describes how it has been a turning point for him.
The outbreak of coronavirus this year has resulted in significant and unprecedented changes to the way families live their day-to-day lives. For many working parents pre-Covid, ordinary life often saw both go to work while children spent the day in nursery or school.
Now, unless you’re a key worker, the chances are your entire family has spent all day, every day at home together for several months.
Whether you’re a key worker, your job has shifted to homeworking, you’re on furlough, or you’ve sadly lost your job altogether, the coronavirus pandemic has put significant strain on the lives of many parents, and challenged what work post lock down could mean for fathers in particular.
A recent study conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) and University College London surveyed 3,500 families to assess the impact of lockdown on their working and home-life dynamic. It found that mothers are more likely to have lost their jobs completely, seen their working hours reduced more than fathers and are more likely to spend their days juggling work and childcare.
Lucy Kraftman, a research economist at the IFS, said: “Mothers are doing, on average, more childcare and more housework than fathers who have the same work arrangements, be that not working, working from home or working outside the home.”
She added: “The only set of households where we see mothers and fathers sharing childcare and housework equally, are those in which both parents were previously working but the father has now stopped working for pay while the mother is still in paid work.”
Senior research economist at the IFS, Alison Andrew, said: “A risk is that the lockdown leads to a further increase in the gender wage gap.”
Although the research suggests that mothers are bearing the brunt of the impact of lockdown, it doesn’t mean that fathers haven’t increased their involvement in home life. “Fathers, on average, are doing nearly double the hours of childcare they were doing prior to the crisis,” said Sonya Krutikova, a Deputy Research Director at IFS.
These findings reflect those of our dads in lockdown survey on the impact of lockdown on health, finances and family life. We found a significant number of fathers saying their involvement in home life has increased dramatically compared with before the coronavirus outbreak.
In fact, 76% of those surveyed described themselves as more involved compared with just a few months ago. Eighty-three per cent of dads have increased the amount of time they spend playing with their children, 70% are doing more household chores, with 67% doing more cooking for the kids and just over half are spending more time helping their children with school work.
Although the two studies paint two very different pictures, they don’t necessarily contradict each other. It is entirely possible, and likely, that while mothers are bearing the brunt of lockdown, fathers are still doing more than they were before. It would appear that, typically, the balance of home and childcare work done between mothers and fathers is somewhat the same as pre-lockdown, both are simply doing more than they were. Across the DaddiLife community we’ve seen the same picture where dads have been talking about development toys like Tuff Trays, for instance, more than ever!
This is from Jon in the DaddiLife community:
“My experience of lockdown certainly rings true with the findings of the DaddiLife survey. As someone who was placed on furlough at the end of March, while my wife has seen no reduction in her working hours or pay, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount I’m doing at home. The vast majority of my day is spent playing and caring for our son, while I’m also doing a lot more around the house.
“Both of our employers closed offices early in March and we were both working from home full time for around three weeks before I was placed on furlough. With a two-year-old who was suddenly not going to nursery and seeing his friends and two parents trying to juggle full-time work with caring for a toddler, it was understandably a very stressful few weeks adapting to life at home.
“I was honest with my employer about how difficult I was finding the situation and I was placed on furlough soon after. Working for a small business, it was quite easy for things to move quickly in that respect. I fully recognise that not everyone has an employer who is as understanding as mine and was willing to be proactive in helping us in our situation, but had it not been offered first, I certainly would’ve requested it.
“We are in a fortunate enough position to have been able to absorb the reduction in pay quite comfortably, something many parents simply haven’t had the luxury of doing. My wife is currently 34 weeks pregnant with our second child at the time of writing, so her outlook on her future career and the impact of lockdown is probably quite different to a lot of other mothers. For me, however, these past three months spending all day, every day with our son, has sparked a considerable change in how I perceive my career post-lockdown.
“As the higher earner in our relationship, I saw it (perhaps stereotypically) as my duty to continue to earn that salary, and more. However, being on furlough has shown us that we can comfortably reduce our income to allow me to spend more time with our son and daughter, when she arrives. Any ideas of working from full-time, working reduced hours or condensing hours had always seemed unrealistic. Now, however, I am spending a lot of time considering how I can shape my work-life to allow me more time with my family.
“It’s a conversation I will certainly be having with my employer post lockdown and it’s something I’m seeing a lot of dads discuss and consider in community groups across social media. Nothing will change without at least a conversation. Had I not told my employer about the stress while working from home early on in lockdown, I may not have been placed on furlough. Who knows what impact that would’ve had on our mental health and relationship as a family.
“Like most people, we’ve found many aspects of lockdown tough and stressful. At times, I’ve definitely felt like I could use a break from parenting all day, every day. But I look back on the past few months with nothing but joy. I’ve never been able to spend so much time with my son, and I likely never will again. This has certainly been a turning point for me in how I perceive my working and family lives.”