Becoming a father gave my husband a renewed vigour when it came to his professional life. I could see the pride he felt while providing for his new, growing family but also the rekindled value he placed on his work, particularly when it came to having a deeper understanding the needs of every single one of his employees.
As the weeks and months flew by I don’t think we realised quite how much our little one was teaching us – and particularly him in ways related to being a dad. And how much that fundamentally changed him both in and out of work. So I wanted to share five things with you that I believe every man learns when they become a father.
- Humility: life isn’t just about you anymore. It’s about taking time to mentor, help and listen to the people around you, whenever you can.
- Perspective: problems can always be solved. There is time to think of a solution and no matter how bad things seem, the world will keep on turning.
- Patience: being able to take a breath and figure out how to get your point across. Or giving someone time to learn or adopt a new skill because you know that it’ll be a benefit to them.
- Negotiation: I’m not sure how many of you wrestled with a two year old in order to get them to eat their porridge before coming to work today but it takes a careful balance of persuasion, coercion, self-belief, strength, humour and time-keeping.
- Language: making big ideas simple and easy to understand while not under-estimating your audience.
Yet while my husband wants to set an example to our children, to demonstrate what hard work is and the rewards it delivers I know that he would give anything to have spent more time with us. That’s why the new findings from The Women and Equalities Committee are potentially so exciting for soon-to-be parents. It’s the realisation that people want to parent together as much as possible. That dads matter too. And that they want to be as hands on as possible when it matters most.
The Committee has called for four things to help improve life for new fathers:
- Statutory paternity pay at 90% of the father’s pay (capped for higher earners). Meaning it would make taking at least two weeks off for the birth of a baby financially viable
- Harmonising workplace rights for fathers who are agency workers or self-employed with those for employed fathers. Simply put – whatever type of work he does, he would have the option to take some time off to spend with his family
- The possibility of replacing shared parental leave with 12 weeks of standalone fathers’ leave in a child’s first year. Potentially contentious but essentially forcing employers to recognise that dads want time with their family too and sometimes more time than just a fortnight
- Immediate legislation for all jobs to be advertised as flexible from day one, unless there are solid business reasons. Hooray! Why shouldn’t our work and home lives complement each other given that technology makes it so easy for us to connect remotely these days?
The Committee’s chair, Maria Miller MP, summarised the findings like this: “The evidence is clear – an increasing number of fathers want to take a more equal share of childcare when their children are young but current policies do not support them in doing so. There is a historical lack of support for men in this area, and negative cultural assumptions about gender roles persist.”