Why does Father Inclusion Matter? Reflections from across the pond

Why does Father Inclusion Matter? Reflections from across the pond

This summer we welcomed Tim and Elena, both students from Florida, to join our team.

After seven weeks spent talking to many organisations we work with, Tim paused to reflect on the experience, how it has changed his view of fatherhood and the benefits to children & society of including dad. 

We hope you enjoy this heart-warming read...

This summer, I had the privilege and experience of coming to work for Fathers Network Scotland all the way from across the pond. I’ve struggled for some time to decide how to adequately describe my experience here, but it’s time I gave it a go. My name is Tim Schwitzgebel, and I study International Relations & Global affairs in the United States. If you find yourself wondering how that landed me in Scotland helping out with an organization dedicated to improving the lives and livelihoods of fathers, you could be forgiven, since I shared that uncertainty myself at first. However, I soon came to realize just how valuable an organization like Fathers Network was not only to Scottish fathers but, as it turns out, to an American university student as well. Fathers Network first came to my attention through Global Experiences, a US-based program that works with university students and recent graduates from around the world. Through GE, I was able to interview with this Scottish charity and ended up getting the chance to travel to Edinburgh and work in the nonprofit sector, something I had wanted for a long time.

As I worked with the team at Fathers Network, I was consistently impressed by the tenacity and determination with which they confronted the daunting task of making a positive influence on national policies and decision-making. It was impossible not to be swept up in the mission. Starting out knowing very little about Scottish or British (or for that matter, American) policies and laws around fatherhood and parenting, I now find myself thinking about everyday issues in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a guiding document for any organization working on behalf of children and families. Fathers Network tirelessly works with medical professionals, educators, social workers, and local and national governments to bring attention and awareness to issues that uniquely affect dads. Mental health, medical practices centered around mums as primary or even sole caregivers, and the stigma around men seeking assistance – these are all issues plaguing today’s society, and Fathers Network aims to change that for Scotland. 

In a world filled with often redundant and sometimes competing non-profit organizations, Fathers Network stands out as one of a precious few groups that sees the gaps in knowledge and policy with regards to the inclusion and welfare of fathers as equal partners in parenthood. If I end up a father myself some day, I will sleep a lot easier knowing people like Chris Miezitis and Cathy Sexton are looking out for me. But I don’t have to be content with sleeping easier. If I could make a difference as an unproven and inexperienced university student, how much more could I, and perhaps you, contribute as a professional? Maybe it’s a little extra patience and compassion for the father of a newborn who has just returned to work at your company. Maybe you’ll be inspired to attend one of Fathers Network’s online or in-person professional training sessions. Maybe it’s just checking in with your friends and coworkers about their mental health and doing your part to end the stigma. As Scotland looks forward to #KeepThePromise to its children and families, I have no doubt that the team at Fathers Network will do their part.