Dad roles

There’s inevitably been a lot around recently about dads and a lot of the discussions seem to centre around what the “father” role is compared with the “mother” one. One debate I listened to [I’m watching A LOT of daytime tv at the moment…] suggested that men were becoming too “mumsy” by being too nurturing rather than disciplinarian. This was bad for children, research supposedly claimed, because children need discipline and rules. I guess they do, but I don’t think the fact that dads are being more nurturing is the problem. Women can discipline too and many I know are far better at it than men. In fact, when I think of older relatives I am sure not all men have been hardline discipline freaks with no nurturing skills in the past either.

Surely both parents can do both nurturing and rule-enforcing. Another programme I watched suggested depressingly that dads were seen as the fun parent and mums as the dinner makers. I tested this theory out on my own children. “You’re both fun,” they said diplomatically. “And you both make dinner, although you do tend to burn it sometimes, mum,” said rebel daughter. [This is because I am always doing about 10 things at the same time, I think in my defence. Daddy gets to focus on the one thing]. I took the questioning a bit further due to a book I am reading about parenting. “What would you say are my major parenting flaws?” I asked rebel daughter. “I want to get it on the record before you reach the teenage years and your critical faculties kick in in earnest.” “You do get a bit stressed on the morning school run and you got upset the other night when the baby wouldn’t stop crying and told him to shut up,” replied rebel daughter. “Shut up” to her is equivalent to major swearing. One day I am going to video the school run so she can experience it in full when she is 21: the painfully slow way she eats breakfast and doesn’t answer when I ask her to do things 20 times over, the way bonkers daughter disappears to do her hair at the last minute and emerges asking “do I have dimples?” while sucking in her cheeks [the baby has dimples…], the baby crying, big girl daughter refusing to eat anything, the 20 billion things we have to take into school for athletics, swimming, music lessons, choir, etc [it’s like going on holiday every single day at the moment].

Someone asked me the other day how I find time to blog, but blogging at the moment is my link to the outside world. I think I would be hopeless at staying at home full time with babies or toddlers. The crying pitch of a newborn baby seems specifically designed to cause maximum unease in mothers. The blog and reading the papers are keeping me sane, but I am a bit worried that flexible working is slipping off the political agenda, given the uncertainty about the economy and some employers’ antipathy. Perhaps it will rise again as the public sector look at how to make cutbacks without losing jobs altogether, but many in the public sector [particularly women] already work flexibly – indeed they often choose to work in the public sector because of the flexibility. If they lose their jobs the demand for new flexible jobs will surely go up as it will if childcare costs increase – due to tax credit cuts and potential top-up fees in nurseries. In the long term therefore flexible working makes sound economic sense and employers need to be given more encouragement and advice on how they can make the most of it.

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