Was father’s day a bigger thing this year? Using the highly scientific sampling method of posts from my motley crew of Facebook friends, I’m sure there were more fathers talking about fathers’ day. Certainly more than the mothers who talked about mothers’ day.
Fatherhood beyond fathers’ day does also seem to be becoming more normal. There are dads in the toddler groups, at the PSA and pushing buggies, my male colleague-fathers leave work early for child-related reasons and our male political leaders increasingly make a point of the fact they do the school run. Fathers’ day 2015 also marked the publication of the first ever State of the Worlds Fathers report.
And yet, and yet. Amongst that same unscientific sample of my 40-something parent-friends, it is still the exception rather than the norm for mother and father to split the domestic work and the work-out-in-the-world equally, down the middle. I wonder if the same will apply when we become carers of elderly parents? My anecdotal findings are borne out by the Office of National Statistics. Working Families points out that more fathers are working flexibly than ever before in the UK, which means progress. But there is a long way to go. In 2015, far more men (14 million) work full time in the UK than women (8 million), while three times as many women as men work part time: that’s 6 million female part timers and 2 million male.
In the modern world, there is no fundamental reason beyond the breastfeeding stage for mothers to dominate childcare. To tackle this, we need more high quality shorter-working-hour opportunities, on the way to a shorter working week for all, and (finally) more progress on equal pay and the smashing of the glass ceiling for women. Then, it would be possible for more women and men to make genuine choices, and for more to enjoy the balance of engagement with the wider world and absorption in home and community, that would come with a fully equal split of parenting responsibilities, and for more children to enjoy close relationships with both parents. Different types of work, different types of rewards, and surely a better balance for everyone.