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What can be done to get fathers more equally involved in childcare?

(207 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-Mar-13 11:34:07

Hello there

Maria Miller, the Minister for Women and Equalities, has asked us what MNers think could be done to encourage fathers to be more equally involved in childcare and education.  

As you might know, the government proposes to change the way that parental leave works - after the first six weeks, working families can now choose which parent uses a 'joint' parental leave allowance.  They can split it between both parents either consecutively or concurrently, or choose to have either the father or the mother stay at home exclusively, for the duration of the leave.

What do you think? Will shared parental leave have an effect on how families divide childcare? And what else could help to encourage fathers to become more involved in caring for their children?  What about education - are fathers as involved as they could be? Please do tell us your thoughts - and any great ideas you might have - here on the thread.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Mon 18-Mar-13 18:37:49

I feel that the early months are less of an issue than having a DP that it is willing to share childcare once a woman has gone back to work. Those years of childcare drops, sick days, attending events is what needs to be shared. Which requires a willing DP and employers that are understanding.

We are lucky that DP works in a job that doesn't have excessive hours. He also wants to be involved and to share the load. I have lots of friends who have DP that really do nothing. hmm

I guess that by mat leave being seen as a woman thing does add to the culture problem we have of women being seen as the primary childcare providers. However, I would have struggled (mentally and physically) to go back to work earlier than 9 months and we were lucky that we could afford for me to stay off.

I saw the Marr show and thought the same - language is so powerful.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Mon 18-Mar-13 18:42:34

Grass roots. Boys should be taught the basics of baby and child care when they are in secondary school....the "taint" that childcare has needs to be removed.

lunar1 Mon 18-Mar-13 19:31:27

It's not so simple though, dh is the bread winner. He's a consultant, he can't just miss days to make things equal.

I am a nurse and just do odd bank shifts to keep my registration going now, I was a ward sister previously.

If one of our boys is sick I look after them, if dh stayed off his clinics would have to be cancelled and people who had been waiting for there appointments would get bumped back 6 weeks as that's how far their appointments are booked up.

I always get up in the night too, I don't want dh tired at work, plus he sometimes gets called in at night.

I have to say though, weekends and evenings he is an equal parent and he has a Couple of hours doing activities with them alone every week too. It's not about gender for us though, if our jobs were reversed our roles in the family would be too.

Xenia Mon 18-Mar-13 19:33:16

Yes but luinar why do the consultants marry the nurses? That is often the key to it - men marry someone who earns less presumably because it flatters their ego and women marry someone who is a bit better educated and earns more because they want a good provider. If we had loads of female consultants marrying male nurses and the equivalent for all jobs then we would not have the issues about unfairness at home, low pay for women and gendered roles at home.

Why did you not becomes a consultant? Why did your husband not become a nurse? Why did you not marry another nurse but instead a consultant?

Jenijena Mon 18-Mar-13 19:39:50

We've split maternity leave under the current regulations, DS starts nursery tomorrow, DH back to work after Easter. And he earns a bit more than me, but its right that we sacrifice some of his salary so he gets to spend time with his son - in his case, about four months. We've saved enough to make it work.

I am astounded by the reactions of the vast majority of mums my age I have come across:

"I wouldn't trust my DH - he'd watch tv all day"
"No way am I giving up my maternity leave to for him to have it"
"But I'd still have to do all the housework"
"He wouldn't give up [name of hobby] to look after child at the weekend, he's not going to give up a bit of work"

I cannot believe that women plan to have children with people with so little mutual respect that they cannot countenance having equal share in bringing up those children. Apart from breastfeeding - which remains, despite DH's best efforts ;) -my job - everything else is split, and its great. But if women can't get their heads around this, is it a surprise that the rest of society doesn't catch up?

And we have to stop labelling childcare as a mum issue, it's a parent issue, whether its proportion of salary spent on daycare, or who takes a day off for a snow day.

I do slightly fear that the small employer not hiring 30 yr old women thing will spread- if dad uptake of parental leave takes off - and become a man thing too. I suppose that's equality hmm

exoticfruits Mon 18-Mar-13 19:52:07

I do think that we have to let women have the whole choice and not get annoyed if they want to go down the traditional route. I am not suited to the medical profession, but if I were then I would like to be a nurse more than anything and care for the whole person, I wouldn't want to be a consultant and I would hate to be a surgeon dealing with 'the gall bladder' rather than 'John Smith'.
You also have to allow for the fact that some of us find bringing up children more interesting and exciting than any paid employment-and there is nothing wrong with that either.

Half the problem is that the two sides never have the same discussion. I get into trouble on feminist boards- but I am really very middle of the road-at least I dare comment, but I wouldn't dare take on the 'earth mothers' and disagree. Since the two sides never discuss the same topics you don't make much progress.

exoticfruits Mon 18-Mar-13 19:54:31

"I wouldn't trust my DH - he'd watch tv all day"
"No way am I giving up my maternity leave to for him to have it"
"But I'd still have to do all the housework"
"He wouldn't give up [name of hobby] to look after child at the weekend, he's not going to give up a bit of work"

This is very, very accurate-and I would say the majority. They all seem to have an extra child-I never know why.hmm

lunar1 Mon 18-Mar-13 19:58:54

Xenia my first husband was on an equal pay level to me when we met, he had to give up work due to health reasons and sadly we never had children before I lost him, we had always planned to share childcare though and our jobs would have meant we wouldn't need any outside help, I like to think he would have been an equal parent.

Dh's x wife was a doctor too, they bother planned to work full time when they had children and live with one of their parents for childcare. They are both Indian so it would be the norm to live in a larger family unit anyway for them. Unfortunately his ex decided she no longer wanted children a couple of months after she got pregnant and terminated before talking to dh. this ended their marriage.

When we met we were both still pretty damaged from our first marriages and helped each other through, nothing to do with our jobs.
My gcse and a level results would not have permitted
Me to be a doctor!!!grin

lunar1 Mon 18-Mar-13 20:00:09

Sorry that was long!

wisemanscamel Mon 18-Mar-13 20:01:08

On the other hand, exoticfruits I asked my DH if he would prefer to be first port of call for snow days and he said "no, not really, it would be really annoying". I don't think he is unique in this. I think most men who work would rather just concentrate on that, safe in the knowledge that their lower paid partner would pick up the slack. I'm not convinced men do want to pick up an equal share of childcare - why would they?

VinegarDrinker Mon 18-Mar-13 20:07:12

Noone is saying women shouldn't be nurses, though, exoticfruits or that women shouldn't be SAHMs, just that it shouldn't be the assumption.

I will be a Consultant in the next 5-10 year's, all being well (depending on how PT I work and how many more lots of mat leave I have). Yes, there are days that it would be really, really inconvenient to miss work, but that isn't all of them. Consultants have admin sessions and CPD time that can easily be made up.

I am the higher earner but we have considered it more important to both continue our careers and split the childcare, rather than just focus on money. There is a well established route of less than full time training in medicine available equally to men and women, but virtually no men apply for it. Why?

Jenijena Mon 18-Mar-13 20:08:03

"I'm not convinced men do want to pick up an equal share of childcare - why would they?"

Isn't the point - why would women want to have children with men who aren't interested in taking an equal share of childcare?

Also- I may be lower paid, it doesn't make my job (or career) less important. I'd rather a banker take a day off than a nurse.

VinegarDrinker Mon 18-Mar-13 20:09:39

"I'm not convinced men do want to pick up an equal share of childcare - why would they?"

For the same reasons women enjoy spending time with their children, surely?

I find that a seriously depressing comment for a Dad to make tbh.

VinegarDrinker Mon 18-Mar-13 20:12:39

" Isn't the point - why would women want to have children with men who aren't interested in taking an equal share of childcare?"

Well, quite. It would be a dealbreaker for me. Women who work FT are often asked "why have children if you don't want to spend time with them?". Surely that applies equally to those Dads who are not interested in looking after their own children.

exoticfruits Mon 18-Mar-13 20:12:53

I love your posts Jenijena -I agree.

Isn't the point - why would women want to have children with men who aren't interested in taking an equal share of childcare?

It is the thing that foxes me!

CityGal29 Mon 18-Mar-13 20:17:49

All my friends earn more than their husbands (all fields: finance, medicine, consultancy, textiles, management) literally everyone.

All with kids have men that do 50% of it all. 2 of the dads are currently taking the second half of the old maternity leave - ones a policeman , the other works in banking.

Educated couples in their late 20s/early 30s are going to be quite different to the generation before - x I think it is. Generation Y men saw the workaholic dad mistakes and want to e emotionally committed to their children & supportive of their wives.

I reckon this discussion will be sea within 10yrs among middle class couples grin

LisaDufour Mon 18-Mar-13 20:22:25

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Jenijena Mon 18-Mar-13 20:22:59

I'm 31, boringly middle class, had first child last year. These are the views I'm getting from my peers sad

wisemanscamel Mon 18-Mar-13 20:23:45

But I'm not talking about the lovely bonding, weekends playing football, collecting kids after school and listening to their day - I mean the phone call at 2.30pm when one feels 'queasy'. The snow day that you only find out about at 8.30am when you're at work and the childminder calls. If I am honest, I would love someone else to pick up these issues so that I can stay at work. However, perhaps I am alone in this.

Jenijena Mon 18-Mar-13 20:28:04

I'm not saying I disagree with you wisemancamel. But there shouldn't be the automatic presumption that the mum deals with the awkward bits of childcare. I don't think Dads should be let off because they don't want to do it. These times suck, but they should suck equally.

VinegarDrinker Mon 18-Mar-13 20:30:39

Equal parenting isn't just about the fun times though, is it? And over the long term actually I do think it is important for binding for parents where possible to be their for your kids when they are sick etc, however dull/irritating/inconvenient it might be.

VinegarDrinker Mon 18-Mar-13 20:33:24

CityGal I hope you are right. However I'm 29, in a professional job, surrounded by right-on lefty Londoners, and still don't know any other couples where the man has gone PT or the childcare is shared.

WidowWadman Mon 18-Mar-13 20:51:26

In Germany shared parental leave is incentivised by giving couples 2 extra months of paid leave between them if both of them take some leave, with one partner doing at least 2 months. They can be taken simultaneously, e.g. both parents of 7 months together, if completely shared, or if the one with the shorter leave takes two months, they can be at the same time as the other giving the parents time off together after the birth, but you can also just choose to tag it on - e.g. mother off for 8 weeks and then father off for a year.

If the father doesn't take any leave those extra 2 months are lost.

WidowWadman Mon 18-Mar-13 20:54:54

"On the other hand, exoticfruits I asked my DH if he would prefer to be first port of call for snow days and he said "no, not really, it would be really annoying". I don't think he is unique in this. I think most men who work would rather just concentrate on that, safe in the knowledge that their lower paid partner would pick up the slack. I'm not convinced men do want to pick up an equal share of childcare - why would they?"

Why would you want to have children with someone with that attitude?

exoticfruits Mon 18-Mar-13 21:43:47

I can't think why you don't discuss what you are going to do before you have the child. We started off with 'what about childcare' and DH would have fitted in whatever I wanted. As it was I said I wanted to stay at home with them full time-which surprised him a bit- but he was happy to go along with it.
With my first I was a widow I only had me, so I could do exactly as I wanted-which was stay at home full time.

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