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  • Baljit Kaur

Will we finally see an end to the ‘daddy stigma’ post isolation?

At the present time, a majority of fathers are at home alongside their children. I wonder how many men have welcomed the time they have been able to spend with their families. And how many want to reset the imbalance going forward so that they have a successful career as well as a healthier work life balance. These should not be mutually exclusive!

Research tells us the UK is facing a crisis of ‘fatherlessness’. One in four families with children are now single families and 30 per cent of UK fathers work 48 hours a week or more, meaning they are unlikely to see their children during the week.

Do the present circumstances provide an ideal opportunity to challenge the societal norms and stereotypes about men and women’s roles in relation to work and childcare?

It is widely accepted that the responsibility of childcare and domestic labour predominantly falls upon women. For some taking care of their family on a full time basis is a matter of choice, for others it is not.

A Pew Research study done in 2015 showed that ‘women are more likely to change their work hours or detour their career to take care of family than men, and more likely to say that being a working mother has a negative effect on their career advancement than working fathers’.

This imbalance can be redressed if men and women are able to share childcare equally. However, men still face stigma for requesting or taking leave to undertake childcare responsibilities such as caring for a sick child or attending a sports day. It’s still not seen as culturally acceptable in the workplace.

‘Daddy stigma’ remains one of the key contributors as to why so few men request flexible work or apply for Shared Parental Leave.

Judgements are made about their strength of character, commitment to the job, and loyalty to their career. Traditional notions of masculinity have resulted in some men being mocked by colleagues for working part-time or sharing childcare duties.

So, when organisations are doing a stock take of the learning from this time in isolation, may they consider the following?

o Consult with fathers to understand their experience and their views on how the barriers that may be preventing them from achieving a healthier work life balance can be achieved. Ideally before the previous way of working becomes the norm again.

o Review company policies so they enable fathers to spend more time with their families. Policies such as paid paternity leave; flexible working; agile working (including working from home arrangements); return to work policies after a baby is born that support fathers going through the transition.

o Challenge the historical negative perceptions and outdated assumptions made about the role of fathers in child rearing. Communicating and encouraging take up of parental leave; stamping out inappropriate ‘banter’ which reinforces the ‘daddy stigma’; senior leaders role modelling take up of parental policies and storytelling their experiences; and not rewarding a long hours culture are all ways of doing so.

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