That’s the finding of our most most recent deep-dive report into fatherhood in Scotland, published today.
On the run up to fathers day this year, we asked dads as part of our annual dads survey ‘What one thing would improve the lives of dads in Scotland?’. Over 600 fathers, with children under 18, spoke up and shared their views. Now, as the festive season draws near, we reveal what dads really want for Christmas - and it’s not socks!
Our survey report, published in October, revealed that a ‘quiet childcare’ revolution is taking place with more fathers than ever before prioritising time with their family as a result of Covid lockdowns transforming family life.
Yet despite their increasing commitment - and evidence that their care is vital for development - fathers face an uphill battle to be recognised for the positive role they play in their children’s lives, and are struggling to get the support they need.
85% of dads said more support was needed from government, family services and employers.
After carefully analysing dads responses to the question: ‘What one thing would improve the lives of dads in Scotland?’ several clear overarching themes emerged.
- 41% wanted more support to balance providing for, and being there for, their children.
- 24% called for better support particularly in service provision.
- 20% of dads called for greater equality and acknowledgement in their role as caregiver.
What Dads Really Want
Support from employers and the government to help balance the competing demands of providing for and being there for their children.
Dads want... financial support, particularly in response to the cost of living crisis. Dads with children in the early years are most acutely affected and are calling for enhanced paternity leave and free or affordable childcare.
“Ease money concerns. Interest rates, cost of living, energy uncertainty are all very stressful.”
“Childcare support before the age of 3 would make such a huge difference. The financial pressure to provide for full childcare costs is huge.”
“Better paternity leave. I got one week. Assuming no dad wants time to be with their child in those crucial early days, or putting all of the early care on a mother who will be utterly exhausted is reckless and assumptive.”
Dads want... time to devote to family and support from their employers to meet their childcare responsibilities. Dads want access to family-friendly flexible working arrangements and some suggested a 4-day working week.
“I often feel my employers believe any issues with my children should be dealt with by their mum. Pick ups from school, attending events like school sports day but my wife and I want equal responsibility.”
“By promoting flexible working arrangements, such as remote work options, compressed work weeks, or flexible hours, dads would have more opportunities to spend quality time with their families and actively participate in caregiving responsibilities.”
“A four day work week to allow more time with their children.”
Support within education and healthcare settings, and opportunities to connect with other dads.
Dads want... access to low cost activities for children and better inclusion of dads within services particularly during the early years.
“More options of activities to do with kids that are more cost efficient rather than expensive soft plays or adventure parks.”
“I feel that nursery and schools are very mother focused when it comes to contact, sometimes feel like they could include dad more.”
“Being more welcome at playgroups etc. It's so often a woman dominated sphere it's hard not to feel as welcome as a s***e in a pool.“
Dads want... to feel valued and supported by health services especially when it comes to mental health. Dads want more prominence for the information and support available and better ways to connect with other dads particularly in the early years:
“If there could be more acceptance of dads throughout the birthing process rather than just being in the background, even at home visits. I understand that mum is the focus and she needs to recover but dads can take on a lot of stress as well.”
“To be honest, I feel like if I was to have a serious mental health issue I wouldn’t be that comfortable seeking help, I would feel like I’ve failed and wouldn’t want the attention. We need to remove the stigma of men… not saying anything when it’s not okay.”
“More information before, during and after having kids! I am nearing middle age and reasonably educated and have found some of it a minefield! Some dad's being younger or not confident in asking questions will be struggling.”
“I feel if there were more opportunities for dads to meet other dads and socialise in a group setting this would help struggling dads greatly.”
To be treated as equal caregivers by public services and society.
Dads want... to be “seen as an equal parent” and “for dads to be included and acknowledged from the very beginning.” As one dad pointed out “We are parents too”. A lack of equity seems to be particularly apparent when dads suffer from the consequences of divorce or separation.
“We seem to be an afterthought in everything concerning the children/families.”
“My generation is different from my dads and my grandparents etc. We are much more involved and often do the mainstay but perception in society is that we don’t and it needs to be more accurate to life. Exceptions of course but not amongst the plethora of dads I know.”
“Equal rights through separation. I have close friends that lost everything they have, just to get access to their children.”
“If dad doesn't get the child benefit in their name there is no help and DWP or UC [Universal Credit] won't share the child element.”
WHAT WE ARE CALLING FOR…
- As dads become increasingly involved in their children’s lives it's crucial that both parents are treated as equal caregivers by services, to ensure the best outcomes for children.
To respond to the increasing pressure on dads’ work-life balance we recommend employers develop a positive culture, health and wellbeing support and family-friendly flexible workplace policies to support all those with childcare responsibilities.
As we face the most severe economic crisis in a generation the Scottish Government must support families most in need to reduce financial stress by
a) Fast-tracking its high-quality offer of Early Learning & Childcare (ELC) for one and two year olds. This should be part of a broader package of financial support schemes that prevents families from experiencing poverty and financial stress as a result of the cost-of-living crisis
b) Calling on the UK Government to change parental leave and pay to give employed fathers/second parents two weeks' paternity leave, plus four weeks' non-transferable parental leave, paid at 90%, to be taken in the baby's first year.
- With financial stress continuing to rise, it is essential that more support is given to dads who are suffering from - or at risk of - poor mental health and levels of public awareness of these services increased.
Find out more about what dads shared with us, and what would improve their lives, by reading our full report: