October 15, 2020:
Pandemic raising opportunities and highlighting challenges for Dads
COVID-19 is raising new opportunities and highlighting challenges for Dads – as their roles are changing more rapidly than at any other modern period.
The changing roles and experiences of Dads were highlighted at a webinar Engaging Dads, Supporting Families, hosted by the Tallaght based Childhood Development Initiative.
The webinar included top international and Irish experts looking at how to better engage with Dads on childcare and family life, and the impact of COVID-19 on their roles.
Lead Fatherhood Facilitator at the UK based Fatherhood Institute Cassius Campbell said the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an intensive period of change in fathers role in childcare.
“Fathers childcaring role has reached its highest levels during the pandemic. Research in the UK (by the Fatherhood Institute and Nuffield Foundation) found that 58 per cent of fathers who lived with their children were spending more time doing childcare duties like going to the park, helping with school work and household chores.
“No commuting, working from home, or not working has resulted in many Dads learning much more about schooling, cooking meals, routines and day to day family communication. This has been a positive shift and strengthened many Dads role as significant main carers.
“However, men who don’t live with their children, or live in rural communities, have found gaining access to their children more challenging due to social distancing protocols and mothers having control of access to the child.
“COVID-19 has presented many opportunities to re-evaluate Dads’ role in caring for children – and these positive aspects can become the new normal, with ongoing flexible working conditions to support improved work life balance for Dads and families,” he said.
However, there have also been challenges for Dads during the pandemic as highlighted by Treoir CEO Damien Peelo, who said access to children has been more difficult for separated and single Dads.
“The lockdown further restricted access to their children for many separated or single Dads and has shone a light on problem issues on shared and fair child access which need to be addressed.
COVID-19 gives us circumstance to re-consider the caring roles and to share it more equally between men and women. With more fathers at home we have a chance of better equality in terms of care between men and women. This progress would benefit the whole of society.”
CEO of From Lads to Dads, a Tallaght based organisation to support young Dads, Dave Saunders also highlighted challenges which have been amplified during the pandemic.
“One of the difficulties has been Dads not being able to spend enough time with new born children, due to restricted access to hospital maternity wards. This is a critical bonding time for Dads and the importance of this should be recognised.
“Everything from maternity information leaflets, to supports after babies are born, are almost exclusively geared towards mothers. The vast majority of men find childbirth an amazing experience and closeness has long-term benefits for both Dads and their children.”
He added that the pandemic had also resulted in many Dads having a better understanding of their children’s school work and day-to-day routine, which has benefitted their parenting role.
CEO & Founder of US based Promundo Dr Gary Barker said Dads experiences of lockdown have been affected by the their level of financial security and nature of their relationship.
“Our research has identified that Dads who were able to be at home more and are more financially stable, were more able to experience additional bonding and learning time, which brought a real benefit to them and their families. However, challenges arose for Dads who faced money or relationship stresses – and for some families the pandemic worsened the Dads relationships and role.
“Dads don’t have to be perfect, or in control all the time. What is critical for children is for their Dads to be emotionally present, to show vulnerability and to openly discuss fears and joys. When Dads do this it brings great benefit, particularly for sons who more often turn to their mothers for emotional needs. And this is highly positive for daughters too.”
Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) Parenting Specialist and webinar organiser Celine Moran said the care giving and well-being of children is over-focused on women and mothers – and there are great benefits to be reaped from Dads playing a greater role.
“A greater focus on Dads, encouraging and supporting them, particularly at this time, will help to maximise outcomes for all family members – irrespective of whether parents are married, separated or single,” she said.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.