Thursday 16 June 2016

UK Dads are the worst in the world (allegedly) - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

As Father's Day approaches at the speed of light, and once again many dads cringe inwardly at the thought of a novelty mug or a pair of socks, a new study has been published laying into UK dads as spending the least amount of time on shared childcare compared to any other country in the developed world (or at least the 15 countries that featured in the study).

The Independent covered the story with as non-biased a headline as you're ever going to read, and the report stated that UK dads spend just 29 minutes of time with their children for every hour their partners put in (naturally the report didn't cover same-sex marriages but when do they ever!)

Apparently dads fare slightly better on the domestic chores stakes, where we come 5th out of 22 countries surveyed as part of the Fatherhood Institute's "FIFI" (Fairness in Families Index) study. So what are devoted dads to make of these figures?

Sadly it still feels like there's no argument to be made here. Dads are, time and again, seen as the sleeping (or snoozing in front of the telly) partners in a relationship when it comes to childcare and there are a wealth of reasons (not excuses, reasons) for this. Some children are decidedly mum-centric, and are excessively demanding of their mums for one reason or another (In Charlotte's case, it's probably because mum is the 'Sensible' one and dad is a complete gonk most of the time, heart of gold or no).

We have always struggled to maintain a fair balance in our childcare duties and when Charlotte was very small, we split babycare duties as equally as it's possible to split them (obviously there's not much you can do as a dad when it comes to feeding time and your nipples don't work but boy-howdy I could change nappies at the speed of a formula 1 pit-stop by the time Charlotte was old enough to begin potty training).

An extreme example but if there's one change any parent can make for the better, it's to switch their bloody phone off during 'child time' - It drives me MAD seeing parents doing this. 
Even now we take it in turns for bedtime duties, alternating days. At 8 years old Charlotte can do most of the things she needs to do before bed but always needs some parental supervision to make sure teeth are brushed, faces are washed and of course there's no way on this earth we'd miss out on bedtime storytime and of course we both kiss / cuddle her goodnight. So where does the disparity in time actually come from? In our case I'd probably estimate that it's closer to 45 minutes than 29 and that's with a supreme effort on my part to ensure that I do as much as I can. I only get to pick Charlotte up from school once a week rather than twice, I don't directly drop her off in the mornings but during our tiny amounts of spare time I'd say I just about manage to catch up (of course the blog doesn't write itself so there's a lot of book time). There are just those moments when only mum will do. This doesn't mean that Charlotte is missing out at all, so the report seems to try and paint a rather black and white picture of a problem that in most cases just doesn't exist through some lack of attention or bone idleness.

The phone thing though. That is the one area where just about any modern parent could make a vast improvement. Each and every time we go anywhere, whether it's to the local sports centre or for a day out I lose count of the amount of parents (not just dads, both parents) who stare vacantly at their phone screen while their kids are merrily getting up to all sorts mostly unchecked or with a cursory and lax whiny "Tommy, stop dipping your little brother in that vat of sulphuric acid" before their attention is diverted straight back to that vastly important social media update about some mate's new barbecue or pair of shoes.

I wonder if the Fatherhood Institute has ever considered conducting a study of the difference in parental attention in families who switch off the phone as soon as they get home, and leave it switched off (I now do this as a matter of course because I realised just how bloody RUDE it actually is to be sitting there using your phone while your child is busying themselves doing their homework or in those rare moments actually playing and being a child).

It is an interesting article but as I said at the top of this blog post, it is extremely difficult not to see that there are improvements to be made. So this father's day when your child presents you with a card they've poured their heart and soul into drawing for you, and lovingly bestows upon you a gift they've chosen themselves, make the day theirs rather than yours and reap the rewards of spending a day of quality time with your child (and FFS SWITCH OFF THE DAMNED PHONE!!!)