Right Now

It’s 10:00 in and we're talking to to property managers and owners about their relationship with online travel agents
  • Image:
It’s 13:00 in and we are in Bogotá visiting people in their homes to understand how falling sick with cold and flu impacts their lives
    It’s 11:00 in and we're examining women's attitudes towards skincare
      It’s 11:00 in and we're decoding selfie culture
        It’s 12:00 in and we're exploring the role of VR on mobile phones
          It’s 14:00 in and we’re in Milan exploring feelings about pasta made with non-traditional types of flour
            18 / 08 / 15

            It’s time to celebrate the modern dad

            • There are several tried and tested stereotypes when it comes to what constitutes modern motherhood in the UK. But at the same time depictions of fathers are often even more reductive. Men are often showcased as hopeless and at sea when it comes to family life. They’re unable to cope. At the same time they’re made to feel like their opinions don’t really matter. The media and world of advertising rarely addresses them as part of the family unit. They’re almost always further down the pecking order with Mum at the top.

              We spoke to a group of Dad’s at Flamingo to get their perspective on the world of modern fatherhood. How are things changing and shifting?

              One of the key themes that came up was just how positive the experience of being a Dad really is. Yet often the world of advertising shows the Dad’s world to be one of angst and chaos. And yes it’s definitely a challenge and it can feel relentless and unrewarding. But it’s also joyful and full of amazing moments. The modern Dad is carving out a role for himself distinct from previous generations. He’s more hands on, shares the key parenting tasks and has a full and multi-dimensional role. There’s no longer such a strong delineation between the sexes. In many relationships the roles are interchangeable. It’s all about a parenting ‘team’.

              ‘I’ve got friends who are stay at home Dads. Obviously there’s the breastfeeding phase where there’s more clearly defined roles but after that you can take care of their needs in the same way. You can be the Mum and Dad. So now it’s more about who works and who stays at home.’

              On the flipside of this the modern Dad doesn’t feel like he’s treated as an equal. More often than not the focus is on Mum. They usually take the longer maternity leave (things are changing with new government legislation) and there’s also an expectation that it’ll take a while for things to ‘get back to normal’. Dads meanwhile are expected to swing back into action. They’ve undergone a radical transformation but this isn’t reflected in the way culture speaks to them. They’re expected to carry on regardless. At times it feels like they’re keeping their new status under wraps.

              I think the thing that surprised me most and the thing I found hardest was the expectation that the rest of the world effectively expects you to carry on as normal. Demands on your life have changed but it feels like you’re expected to straddle both worlds without very much reconciliation.’

              On a positive note, Dads often find that their relationship with work has changed for the good. They’re more motivated, focused and want to work harder and achieve more. They’ve got children at home to support and want to use their time as efficiently as possible. There’s less downtime in the office. When they’re working they’re using their time as meaningfully as they can.

              ‘It’s great to have that single-minded focus. Not hanging around. Or having a lunch break. You’re basically hitting it hard because you want to get home because you’ve ultimately got somewhere to go and somewhere to be.’

              The work/family balance is one that is still very prominent in the media discourse. But more often that not this focuses its attention on mothers. They’re the ones seen to be struggling to find ‘balance’ between work and family life. And when successful women are interviewed in the media they’re questioned about how they ‘juggle work and family’ whilst interviews with successful men rarely touch on this. The ups and downs of being a working father are rarely discussed.

              ‘I’ve always found it hard to balance work and family. It feels like my mind is really focused on work for a few months and then my family suffers. Next I’ve abandoned my family a bit mentally and work is more of a focus.’

              ‘There’s no narrative in society around that is there? We’ve heard for so long about how women are balancing. Feeling guilty all the time they’re away from home.’

              ‘You miss some of the key milestones in your child’s life but no one talks about it.’

              Men would like to see more profiles of successful men who are fathers. They’d like to read about the personal side of home and family life. The bias that exists in the media doesn’t just aggravate women (who feel there is too much focus on childcare arrangements when they want to talk about work) but also impacts on men who want to see fairer, more realistic depictions of success.

              ‘Both the media and brands don’t take into account the breadth of the Dad’s role. In reality there is hard Dad, soft Dad, reassuring Dad- there’s so many different angles in terms of how you relate to your children. There isn’t one type and there isn’t one viewpoint.’

              More often than not Dad’s are shown as incompetent, ridiculous and unable to cope with the functional and emotional demands of children. But this isn’t the reality of modern fatherhood where the roles are interchangeable and much of the parenting task is split both ways.

              ‘There’s always that Calamity Dad. He’s a total loser. He lacks any basic skills and can’t cope without Mum being around.’

              ‘The minute Mum leaves the house then everything grinds to a halt. The message is Dad can’t cope with the day to day routine.’

              It’d be great to see more realistic portrayals of fatherhood. This means casting away the ‘Calamity Dad’ and starting from scratch. The Dove ‘Real Dad Moments’ campaign in the US is one that succeeds in showcasing small yet significant moments of fatherhood. The Dads in the campaign aren’t shown as incompetent. Instead their role is all encompassing (from putting on clothes in the morning through to toilet training). They not only act out the traditional role of discipline and ‘rough and tumble’ play. They inhabit a broader more emotional space. Importantly this campaign celebrates Dads and makes them feel good about themselves. Increasingly Mums and Dads are playing interchangeable roles – it’s not so clear-cut anymore. And there’s a need to show ‘parents’ as a team and remember that both contribute in meaningful ways.

              Above all it’s time to celebrate Dads – make them feel good, speak to them in a non-patronising tone of voice and showcase their positive and multi-dimensional parenting skills.

              Let’s hear it for the Dads!

              Article by Anniki Sommerville

              Featured image source