What a Father Wants

This week there was a minor stir among blogfathers at the release of a British study suggesting that men still aren’t all that willing to forego their careers for their children.

‘A Bristol University study found that although new fathers reduced their work hours after the baby was born, they soon returned to their old practices.

It found no evidence that men matched new mothers in combining part-time work with bringing up their children.

Fathers did not work shorter hours than childless men, the study suggested.’

Read more → BBC News

I’m sure the response wouldn’t have been as emotional had the BBC been a little more thoughtful in introducing the study: ‘Modern men are unwilling to break with tradition when it comes to combining the twin roles of work and fatherhood, according to researchers.’

Neither is the media willing to break with tradition when it comes to discussing men and fatherhood. The article, and perhaps the study, seems to ignore the distinction between what men want to do, and what men need to do.

Do I want to spend eight hours each day away from my family. Of course not. I do it so that my family is stronger, so that Kelly can stay with Ian rather than him with daycare. We discussed which of us would stay home, and, as she was breastfeeding, it made perfect sense that Kelly stay home. When the buffet closed, it was also logical that Kelly continue to stay with Ian.

But not because I wanted to work rather than raise my son.

Dave Hill has a different slant on the results, and makes some good points:

‘Bringing home the bacon became a key paternal duty after the industrial revolution separated men’s labour from the home, and the legacy of this piece of cultural custom and practice is neither dishonourable nor likely to lose its purchase in a hurry. Also, to necessarily state the obvious, for as long as it is women, rather than men, who become pregnant, give birth and breastfeed, it is going to make sense for many couples for Mister rather than Missus to take on the (extra) burden of breadwinning after Miss or Master is born, especially as he is likely to be the bigger earner.’

Read more → Guardian Unlimited

And I certainly can’t fault his conclusion, which should resonate with any reasonable person:

‘In short, the road towards new and improved forms of fatherhood is a long and slow one, and it was always going to be that way. So it’s worth restating what the journey is for – or ought to be for. It is not, as the sneerers say, to turn men into women. Neither is it to destroy the “traditional” family, to “go against nature” in some way. It is to help with the still larger task of helping families become warmer, more stable, egalitarian and democratic institutions in which Dad is not a remote outsider.’

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