“What do you want time off for? You’re divorced aren’t you?” With assumptions like this still abounding for non-resident parents, FAMILIES NEED FATHERS SCOTLAND explains why our #DadUp initiative can offer crucial support.
Families Need Fathers Scotland enthusiastically supports the #DadUp! initiative.
Most of the concept material has so far focused on encouraging a more expansive recognition by employers of what they can do to assist mothers and fathers in sharing the tasks and pleasures and above all the time that goes with parenting their children in what’s indecorously called ‘intact families’.
In our experience the concept is equally important and sometimes more important for parents who no longer or never did live together.
The Fathers Network Scotland Dads’ Survey revealed both how much has already changed in the sharing of parenting between mothers and fathers and also how many parents are frustrated at the cultural and financial obstacles that still slow down progress. The reality of parenting in Scotland has transformed, in substantial part due to changes in economic activity.
Expectations are higher than ever for the part dads can play not only in sharing parenting time but also in contributing more of what is specifically ‘father’ input in the emotional and psychological development of their children.
But when parents don’t live together the old role expectations generally crash back into place no matter how deeply involved the father may have been in the children’s life up to that point.
We know of numerous cases where the father has gone from main carer to ‘visitor’ in what seems like the blink of an eye. It is painful and shocking enough for the father who comes to us for support but must be infinitely more bewildering and hurtful for the children.
#DADUP INCLUDES US ALL
So we urge those embracing the #DadUp campaign not to forget non-resident fathers in the representations they make to professionals and employers.
Where the separated parents are working reasonably and collaboratively together it is important for their children that they continue to share things like dentist and hospital appointments and seek flexibility if a childhood illness necessitates a day or two off school. The child needs to have confidence that either or both parents will be there when needed.
We have heard occasionally that an employer or a father’s workmates have said, “What do you want time off for. You’re divorced aren’t you?”
We have heard much more often fathers telling us they didn’t dare ask in case they were laughed at or accused of trying to pull a fast one.
A LEGAL WIN-WIN
But in the unfortunate cases where the separated parents aren’t working well together it is even more important that the non-resident parent - usually but not always a father - is confident that he will be supported at work to play his part in both the scheduled and unexpected parenting moments.
It is more important because these are precisely the tests that a sheriff or a court appointed Child Welfare Reporter sometimes apply in making a decision about the extent of a father’s involvement in the life of his child.
“How many GP appointments have you attended with your child? None? Hmm.”
Our overall ambition is to do our part in steering the shared parenting debate towards the evidence that in the vast majority of cases children benefit in most aspects of their well-being when both parents are actively involved in their lives after separation and that they are seen to have equal status in the eyes of the public and professional agencies they encounter.
We would like to convey to employers that the benefits to them of supporting fathers in their parenting - in the form of a motivated and loyal workforce - is likely be doubly rewarded if they remember non-resident dads too.
Families Need Fathers Scotland has launched a new information and discussion website raising awareness about the benefits of sharing the care of children after parents separate: check it out at www.sharedparenting.info.