Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Let's hear it for (stay at home) fathers

Here's an interesting article from last week on The Guardian, by Anne Karpf, put my way by a great developmental psychologist Liz Meins.

Karpf points to new Office of National Statistics figures which show that 10% of the parents who stay at home to look after their children are fathers – a record high. She writes:

Some of the increase in stay-at-home fathers, of course, is the result of male unemployment, but a lot of it is also because growing numbers of men have woken up to what they've been missing out on in the home while they've been out at work. And because so many of them have seen through the ideological guff about motherhood and realised that hey, they're as good at wiping noses, making playdough giraffes and whipping up a macaroni cheese as any woman.
Or better. When my first child was born her father, whose third child she was, proved to be a much less vexed and more creative parent than me, who didn't feel altogether jubilant about this fact: join in and all that, but please don't make me look incompetent in the process.
She goes on to say:
These days it also brings a certain kudos. There's little sexier than a big man attending to a small child. "Aren't you lucky?" women say to me – all because I live with a man who takes active responsibility for his own children. 
'Lucky' is an odd choice of phrase, isn't it?
Karpf also points to research that shows children of 'involved fathers' are
more cognitively competent at six months, have higher IQs at 3, do better academically, are less likely to be obese or have behavioural problems or suffer depression, are less likely to become pregnant as a teenager, accept themselves more, are more empathetic and less likely to divorce.
…you wonder why governments and states, even if all they care about is the bottom line, don't reorganise everything to enable men to get seriously involved with their kids. The financial, not to mention human, benefits would be incalculable.
The key point for me here is that 'involved fathers' is actually measured by amount of interaction, including higher levels of play and caregiving activities – so it's not just about 'stay at home' Dads, there are lessons for us all here.

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