In May 2022 the remaining COVID restrictions and regulations were lifted and the public health crisis, which had dominated life for over a year and a half, was at last receding. However a global economic crisis was gathering force.
Fuel and food prices were increasing rapidly and looked set to get worse. According the the Office of National Statistics 90% of those living with a dependent child aged 0 to 4 years felt very of somewhat worried about the rising cost of living. But what were the real life stories behind these worrying statistics? how were dads and families across Scotland really coping? We wanted to find out...
Between 27 May - 30 June 271 dads took part in our Annual Dads Survey.
This report is the fourth in a series which collectively chart the journey we have been on since the start of the pandemic. On its own it provides a snap shot in time, a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Scottish dads, their personal tragedies, triumphs, struggles and moments of joy.
Click HERE to Download
Dads’ are struggling to balance work and family life
60% of all working dads told us they struggled to balance work and family life.
“When my work is stressful, or I am worried about it, I notice that I am less patient with my son, which I feel absolutely awful about.”
Time away from home for work is primary cause of poor work / family life balance. Shift workers are particularly badly affected…43% of the dads who found balancing work and family life “Very Difficult” mentioned shift work.
“Due to my shifts and hours I may not get home until 7/8pm some night and my little girl will already be asleep. I try to make the most of my days off when my daughter is also not at nursery that day. I look forward to this time the most”
Dads with Children under 1 are also badly affected. 57% found balancing work and family life ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ (compared to an average of 23%).
“I work from home 2 days a week, 3 days in the office for an oil and gas company. Balancing both doesn’t exist, my little girl is profoundly deaf and requires hearing aids at the moment. We try to attend sign language classes but I rarely if never am able to go because of the workload and how demanding my job is.”
Dads are continuing to prioritise spending time with their children.
Two thirds of dads spend 10 or more hours per week playing or supporting their children’s learning. That’s the same as during lockdown 1!
“As much as it is time consuming, every minute is amazing. Small things like playing in the garden are so underrated.”
Dads from the most deprived areas are spending most time with their kids. 47% of dads from SMID 1 are spending 25 hours or more with their kids compared to 31% of dads from SMID 5. And it is often the simple things that dads most loved...
“Making her laugh”
“We love being outdoors wet or dry.”
“Watching them grow, watching their personalities flourish.”
“I have loved being able to put my child to sleep every night.”
Relationships between dads & partners or co-parents are deteriorating
A third of dads told us the relationships with their partner or co-parent had gotten worse. A third of those told us that exhaustion or no time together was the reason for the deterioration and 23% spoke about the negative impact of work or employment.
“It can be difficult as I'm so tired and we can't spend time together. We organised a lovely family day, then I get called away to work. Work comes first and I can't say no.”
Dads working long hours, away from home or on shift patterns are particularly badly affected as are those with unsupportive workplace cultures.
“I work long and unusual shifts so it is challenging. I also travel for work for multiple days at a time. I often think that the balance isn’t right, however without travelling and working long shifts I wouldn’t be able to afford a lot of my family’s needs.“
“Wife currently recovering from postnatal hospitalisation. I work on call and often away at short notice. Life has been hard since work from home stopped!"
70% of dads told us that they felt irritable at home because my work is so demanding - sometimes, often or almost all of the time. Although we are seeing an improvement in dad's mental health the stresses on parental relationships are of particular concern. Divorced and separated men have a higher suicide risk and this can be compounded by separation from children.
More dads are actively seeking family-friendly flexible working
70% of dads have some flexibility on where they work and home (or hybrid) working is making a difference to many. 25% of all dads who find balancing work and family life ‘okay’ or’ very easy’ mentioned the positive impact it makes.
“The one positive which came from COVID was that I can now work some days at home in my home office and some days in the office so balancing my priorities has become easier than ever.”
However many expressed the problem they have separating work & family life.
“I have flexible working but a very demanding job. It is sometimes hard to separate home and work time, especially when working from home. Hybrid has many benefits but it makes differentiating less easy.”
54% of dads told us they wanted to change the way they parent in the future. Over half of those dads told us they wanted to spend more time with their family and 34% wanted to ensure there work was family-friendly. As one dad told us…
I want to “be bolder and unashamed of putting family first. I'd never before consider asking my employer to allow me to, say, work remotely for a period to allow my family to have an extended holiday during school break.
The pandemic was when I became a father. I feared sharing my fathers guilt of being (necessarily) absent due to work. The pandemic seems to have given me a gift of time at the beginning and hybrid working if we can maintain it a real tool to balance things better.”
So What? Now What? Our recommendations...
The UK Government should…enhance the statutory paternity/partner provision to six weeks at or near the full rate of pay.
Fathers increasingly want to share the responsibilities of childcare, however they are only entitled to two weeks of statutory Paternity Leave. Gendered state policies severely restrict parents choices, steering them into a traditional division of childcare during the infant’s first months. This inequality disadvantages both women in the workplace and denies men the opportunity to develop close nurturing relationships with their children.
Employers should…support the development of a positive, family-friendly workplace.
The benefits to both employees and employers of adopting a family-friendly culture are becoming more widely understood. However a consistent, positive approach for all those with caring responsibilities should be developed and underpinned by improved clarity, knowledge and visibility of workplace policies.
Children and family services should…support working dads involvement in their services and children's lives.
Dads often don’t believe services value their input or make an effort to involve them. This can be particularly true of working dads who frequently find it difficult to engage in person during normal ‘office hours’. But small changes can make a big difference and we are urging service providers to think about how to involve working dads more.
For more information about our survey and findings, please contact Cathy Sexton at [email protected].