By Nick Thorpe, Head of Communications at Fathers Network Scotland
YEAR of the Dad is a year-long celebration of the difference a great dad can make – to their families, their communities, and to society at large. It’s emphatically not a fathers’ rights movement – in fact from the outset the most important voices have been those of children.
Research overwhelmingly shows that children are more likely to be smarter, healthier and happier if their dads are positively involved from the start. You can see that truth framed with emotive power by a group of P6 pupils who premiered their “Song for Dad” at the launch event at Edinburgh Zoo in January. Do give it a listen and share with others, if you haven’t already: it captures the spirit of the celebration, along with our new animation.
Funded by the Scottish Government and run by Fathers Network Scotland with invaluable support from a broad coalition of organisations including Together, Year of the Dad is a rallying call to services and employers to support dads, embrace family-friendly, inclusive practice and reflect the importance of fathers in child development.
Why this focus on dads? Because society hasn’t yet caught up with the striking cultural changes that have taken place in the home and workplace over the past fifty years. The old stereotype of married breadwinner and disciplinarian no longer serves us in an age of increasing diversity and gender equality.
Everybody benefits. “We’ve demonstrated that women can do what men do, but not yet that men can do what women do,” said social activist Gloria Steinem in 2009. “The truth is that women can’t be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.”
That culture shift is already under way, and Year of the Dad is an opportunity to accelerate it.
Dads now play a more active role in a child care and domestic life in general. Their involvement in parenting has increased from less than 15 minutes a day in the mid-1970s to more than two hours a day during the week, with more at the weekend (Fisher et al, 1999).
Once seen by services as an after-thought or even a distraction from the real work of supporting their partners, dads are now making their presence felt in health centres, schools and what used to be called “mother and toddler groups”.
Typically excluded from the birth of their children until the late 1950s, today men rightly expect to be present to support partners from the start of pregnancy, and to welcome their children into the world.
Recent legislation – including changes to birth registration, the right to request flexible working and shared parental leave – means forward-thinking organisations no longer assume it will only be mum who takes time off.
Despite these changes, most dads still think they currently spend too little time with their children and too much time at work. We also know that children want more involvement from their dads.
We believe it’s time to celebrate and support the key contribution fathers make to child development, family and community life. And we mean “fathers” in the most inclusive sense – whether it’s grandfathers, uncles, foster fathers, adoptive fathers, stepfathers or other father figures.
In Scotland this year we have an opportunity to create a wave. We’re delighted that Together will be riding it with us! Will you join us?
Sign up at: www.yearofthedad.org
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YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/fathersnetscot
Fathers Network Scotland is a young, dynamic and respected charity with a passion for dads – because the family and society as a whole benefit when fathers are involved in the life of their children.