A couple of headlines caught my eye yesterday. One – Boyle takes charge of Olympic ceremony – gave me a bit of a shock until I realised it was Danny, not Susan they were talking about. The other – Clegg offers flexible leave for dads – really warmed my heart. Ok, so the country’s in the mire and there are cuts on top of cuts but at least they seem to have an eye on what really matters: kids, parenting, the future.
In a speech announcing the creation of a new Families and Childhood taskforce, the Deputy PM mocked the miserly two-weeks paternity leave he was entitled to when his son was born and declared an end to the tradition that women do the lion’s share of parenting, suspending their career and making all the financial sacrifices. He talked about bringing an end to the ‘stigma’ that discourages men from taking a more hands on role, giving more rights to grandparents and ’empowering’ families to take control of their own lives.
It’s a subject close to my own heart, obviously. Not only am I bucking the trend by staying at home taking on the traditional ‘mums’ role, I’m writing a book about it. Why? Because almost all the books already in existence assume that it’s the mums who will be reading. Dads don’t always get a good press, and it’s not every dad who wants to do what I’ve done (or mum who’d want him to) but there’s not much doubt that – generally – dads need to have a bigger role, to be given a greater opportunity, to be allowed to be more hands on if they want to.
But do they? That’s the $64,000 question. And many of the dads I speak to say things like ‘I’d never be able to do what you do: I’d not have the patience’ or ‘I’d be bored witless’ or worse. I once said nothing while a dad told me he didn’t really like his kids and certainly didn’t want to spend more time with them; inside my heart was breaking for his children. Maybe mums are naturally more suited to the ‘motherly’ role? Even the language seems to suggest it.
So what do you think? Should men be entitled to more parental leave? Can a dad ever be as good as a mum? And would you be happy (if you’re a mum) to let your children’s father stay at home? I’d love to know what you think. I’m pretty much unique in my local area. And maybe that’s because the dads round here don’t have the chance to do what I do.
The question is, would they want to? And if they did, would the mums be happy letting them?