New research from the Fatherhood Institute, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, shows that men are disadvantaged in family life, in a number of respects.
The report claims that
The wider British culture is not, in the main, supportive of couples who want to ‘do things differently’ by sharing earning and caring more equally.
It says that the media portray fathers as not being engaged in intimate care-giving, or that, when they are, they are portrayed as bungling and incompetent, even though only 13% of Britons think that it’s the man’s job to work and the woman’s to raise the children.
How much of this though is engendered by men themselves? It is, feminists might argue, the fault of men that they ‘system’ is set up as it is, in favour of women, because it is patriarchy, ultimately, that has given birth to the idea that women are better parents – girls are, after all, ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ where boys are ‘slugs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails’. According to the report itself, for example fathers are still
“more likely than mothers to say very young children need their mother above anyone else”
“British mothers are more likely than fathers to say they should be the parent to stay at home, even if they earn more than their child’s father”
It seems that we Brits are pretty old-fashioned.
The problem seems to be that the workplace is set up to inhibit mens’ attempts at achieving equality:
“Legislative frameworks and institutional practices also impact on the ‘choices’ mothers and fathers make in terms of earning and caring. For example, employed fathers are almost twice as likely as mothers to have requests for flexible working turned down (Olchawski, 2016), and to fear that asking to work flexibly will damage their careers (Working Families, 2017).”
But perhaps British men prefer their women to stay at home. Many might think that clearly-defined roles like this make for a happier more harmonious relationship. That seems to be wrong:
“Fathers with full-time ‘at home’ partners actually experience more stress than men whose partners are in paid work (Crompton & Lyonette, 2008), possibly because these families tend Executive Summary 3 December 2017 Contemporary Fathers in the UK Fatherhood Institute to be poorer. Nor is involved fatherhood a middle-class pastime: lower earning fathers undertake more childcare than managerial/ professional dads (Hook & Wolfe, 2012).”
STOPPA concludes from this study that there are many surprises to be discovered about home life, once one takes the trouble to look. Certainly more can and should be done to empower men in family life and to give both men and women more flexibility when sharing their work-life balance.