The start of 2021 saw Scottish families once again stepping into a world of staying at home, school closures, home-schooling, video communication and social isolation. For many, the second national lockdown brought fresh challenges. We were - or are - exhausted; Stepping outside for a walk became a whole lot less inviting in the depths of winter; The novelty of home schooling and video wore off very quickly; The prospect of not seeing friends and family - those support networks many of us rely on - became almost unbearable.
Each year Fathers Network Scotland asks families in Scotland about how they're doing. Last year we surveyed dads about their experiences of the first lockdown. 64% told us their mental health had suffered. But there was some very positive feedback too: 60% of dads said lockdown had positively impacted on their relationships with their children and over half told us that they wanted to change the way they parent in future.
We wanted to find out about the impact of the second lockdown, so that we can work and campaign for the issues that matter most to you, your families and your children.
You can read the report of the key survey findings here.
The Lack of Work/Life Balance is Contributing to Dads' Poor Mental Health
We asked the dads who had been working to rate how challenging they had found balancing work life and family life since the start of the second lockdown.
52% said balancing work and family was challenging or very challenging.
Difficulties were particularly felt by dads who said they had children aged 0-2 and 9-12.
"I can say with certainty that it has been one of the most challenging and stressful times of my life. I have a senior full time job and my wife has a senior role also and works 4 days. Balancing our work commitments, home schooling and supporting our children through a very uncertain period has been very hard."
What is the Impact on Dads' Mental Health & Relationships?
69% of dads say their mental health or wellbeing has deteriorated because of the second lockdown. (Compared to 64% during the first lockdown.)
37% of dads say their mental health is bad or very bad. (Compared to 23% during the first lockdown.)
27% of dads say the relationship with their partner has been negatively affected by the second lockdown. (Compared to 16% during the first lockdown.)
22% of dads say the relationship with their children has been negatively affected by the second lockdown. (Compared to 11% during the first lockdown.)
"I feel pressure from work, pressure from my partner to be more involved which conflicts with my work, pressure to help her more, pressure from myself to be a good dad."
"I'm struggling with isolation from family and friends, absence of social time or any time for myself. Working from home also means I sometimes have no adult conversations during the day."
"We are so stressed by the impact of home schooling it has affected our normally strong relationship."
What's the Good News?
44% of dads spent 25 hours or more homeschooling or playing with their children during the 2021 lockdown, a small increase from 2020.
It is clear from the feedback given in our survey, that the majority of dads want to be as involved as possible in their children's lives:
"I'm now able to do the school run everyday and feel much more involved in my children's lives. I've been able to plan home schooling around my job. I very much hope there isn't a return to "normal"."
"I now have a much stronger understanding of our daughter’s needs thanks to being able to spend more quality time with her."
"It's been good to spend time helping my kids with home learning, sharing triumphs and setbacks. Stuff that I would miss out on when the 9-5 is in full swing."
"You don't normally get so much time with a four or five year old. I cherish the time I have had with my child. It has given us a strong relationship."
67% of dads say the experience of living through the pandemic has changed the way they would like to parent in the future.
"Work life balance is so important. I knew this but it has been emphasised this last year. I would like to work from home more often so I can see more of my children and spend more time with them."
"I would like to have more involvement in my children's learning at school."
"I hope to continue to work from home and spend more time with my children, do the school runs etc. I'm able to take them to the park during my lunch hour on Fridays after they've finished school. None of this was possible before lockdown as I was rarely given the opportunity to work from home."
"I'm actively seeking alternative employment with better hours so I can spend more time with my kids."
So, What Does All This Mean?
Our mission is to drive positive cultural change by inspiring organisations, communities and individuals to engage, support and empower men to be the fathers they want to be.
In a modern world at odds with last century’s stereotypes of working life, millions of men are choosing to immerse themselves in childcare and domestic life, while women rightly seek equality in the workplace.
Government policy increasingly reflects this new reality, but a cultural lag means fathers often remain invisible or ignored when it comes to children and family services, childcare, education and health.
Our survey shows that many dads hope to continue to work flexibly and spend more time at home post-lockdown, but the pressures of juggling work and home life are having a detrimental impact on their mental health.
Legislation on flexible working and shared parental leave will only benefit dads once employers stop seeing children and parenting as the preserve of women and dads feel it’s okay not to be the traditional long hours breadwinner.
You can read the report of the key survey findings here.
For more information about our survey and findings, please contact Kirsty Nicholls at [email protected].