Family Groups - Fathers - condescending towards fathers?
and woes of fatherhood
Paternity leave has been increased, men generally
are more involved in home life than ever and groups like The
National Childbirth Trust have continued the debate with surveys
about men's roles in pregnancy, birth and with a new baby.
The National Council of Voluntary Child Care
Organisations says: "Policy makers and service providers
are realising that supporting fathers' relationships with
their children needs to be a priority."
Earlier this year the county health authority
staged a seminar on fathering attended by 75 health professionals,
community agencies and voluntary organisations as part of
an ongoing Health Improvement Programme called Men's Health
One guest was Professor Charlie Lewis from the
University of Lancaster who has been studying "How fathers
adapt to work and family life" and "How they cope
with parenting teenage children."
Assistant director of public health, Alec Kendal,
explained: "Over the years the important role of the
father in the family has had limited recognition and their
lives have many competing influences."
Men still saw themselves as providers, though,
he said and when they were unable to provide, some felt inadequate
and that's when problems can start. Also at the conference
was a representative from national information service Fathers
Direct and a Worcester dad Stuart Auger who has developed
a web site to bring "Mr Mums" together.
Fathers Direct is a charity, supported by the
Department of Health, set up to promote close relationships
between fathers and their children. It has a web site where
there's a library of information and shared experiences, ideas
for games, a working discussion area, a `new dads' area and
a chat room. There are news and competitions, celebrity Rant
of the Month and Desert Island Dads as well as plenty of information
for those not on-line.
Stuart Auger's website, called Dadah, is mainly for at-home
dads, or Mr Mums as he calls them - of which he says there
are now about 99,000 in the UK. The site contains advice,
health, contacts, news, recipes and even washing instructions.
He has also formed a playgroup in Worcester specially for
He says: "It can be very isolating being
the Mr Mum and although not intended, it can be quite difficult
to become involved in the usual toddler groups. Dadah is attempting
to raise the profile of the stay-at-home father."
One Mr Mum, Tony Liddington, of Fladbury, explained
how being a male child carer can bring up unexpected problems.
Professional session drummer Tony is 40 and gave up a freelance
career in the music promotion business to care for two-year-old
Ben full time.
His wife is a teacher and it seemed the practical solution
for her to continue her more stable career while he put his
He said his job had meant time away from home and he was ready
to give it up in favour of more time with his son and his
older daughter, Joanna.
"So I was literally left holding the baby and I had a
big book to look at if I got stuck!" he exclaimed. He
admitted: "It's harder than I thought it was going to
be - keeping the house together, shopping, having the tea
on the table and giving Ben time too, especially as he's getting
Many an at-home mum will agree but Tony has
one or two extra problems associated with being a dad in a
world of mums, not least a sense of extra isolation.
"If a mum makes a friend with another mum,
they can pop round and see each other," he explained.
"Although I'm the sort of person who can mix easily with
both sexes, there is the issue that it's not the done thing
to go to a woman's house or her come to mine so I don't meet
many people in the same situation."
Another big hurdle to overcome for Tony was
joining a toddler group. "I really put that off,"
he said, likening it to a woman going to work for the first
time on a building site - although he did find the group very
friendly and welcoming.
He added that he was also always aware, needlessly or not,
of the air of mistrust surrounding a man looking after children.
However, he stressed: "It would be an experience
I would recommend every dad has.
"If I was still working and travelling, I would miss
out on knowing Ben as well as I know him now."
l Contact Dadah at www.dadah.co.uk, contact
Fathers Direct at www.fathersdirect.com or on 020 7920 9491
or write to the Journal if you're another dad who would like
to talk to Tony.
Prof Charlie Lewis
Psychology Department; Fylde College; Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YF
T. +44 (0)1524 593698
F. +44 (0)1524 593744
Phone: 01524 593822
Fax: 01524 593744
(If you click the above link to make a message,
remove the spam protection before sending it.)
• The role of the father in the family
• Life experiences and family relationships
• Preschoolers' understanding of mind
Day, R. D., Lewis, C., O?Brien, M. & Lamb, M. E. (in p).
Fatherhood and Father Involvement: Emerging Constructs and
Theoretical Orientations. Chapter in V. L. Bengston, A. C.
Acock, K. R. Allen, P. dillworth-anderson & D. M. Klein:
Sourcebook of Family Theory and Research. Thousand Oaks Ca.:
Lamb, M. E. & Lewis, C (2004). The Development and Significance
of Father-Child Relationships in Two-parent Families Chapter
in (pp 272-307) In M. E. Lamb [Ed.] : The Role of the Father
in Child Development. [Fourth Edition]. Chichester: Wiley.
Lewis, C. & Lamb, M. E. (2004). Fathers: the research
perspective. Chapter in N/A: Supporting Fathers, Contributions
from the International Fatherhood Summit 2003 (pp 44-77) .
a Bernard van Leer Foundation report, volume 20 in their Early
Childhood Development: Practice and Reflections series..
Lewis, C. & Lamb, M. E (2003). Fathers' influences on
children's development. The evidence from two-parent families.
European Journal of Psychology of Education., 18, 211-228.
Lloyd, N., O'Brien, M. & Lewis, C. (2003). Fathers in
Sure Start London: National Evaluation of Sure Start, Birkbeck
Lewis, C., Papacosta, A. & Warin, J. (2002). Lewis, C.,
Papacosta, A. & Warin, J. Cohabitation, Separation and
Fatherhood. York: York Publishing Services .
Korman, M. & Lewis, C. (2001). Mothers' and Fathers' Speech
to Infants: Explorations of the Conplexity of Context. Chapter
in M. Almgren, A. Barrena, M-J Ezeizabarena, I Idiazabal &
B. Macwhinney [Eds] : Research on Child Language.. Somerville,
MA: Cascadilia Press..
Langford, W., Lewis, C., Solomon, Y. & Warin, J (2001).
Family Understandings: Closeness, authority and independence
in families with teenagers. London: Family Policy Study Centre
& Joseph Rowntree Foundation. .
Kier, C. Lewis C., & Hay, D (2000). Maternal accounts
of the costs and benefits of life experiences after parental
separation Psicologia: Teoria e Pesquisa, 16, 191-202. .
Warin, J., Salomon, Y., Lewis, C. & Langford W. (1999).
Fathers, work and family life. London Family Policy Study
Centre and Joseph Rowntree Foundation..
Lewis, C. & Auxiliadora Dessen, M. (1999). O pai no contexto
familiar (Fathers in family life). Psicologia: Teoria e Pesquisa,
Kier, C. & Lewis, C. (1998). Preschool sibling interaction
in separated and married families: Are same sex pairs or older
sisters more sociable? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,
Lewis, C. (1997). Fathers and Preschoolers. Chapter in M.
E. Lamb [ed]: The Role of the Father in Child Development.
Lewis, C. (1993). Mothers' And Fathers' Roles: Similar or
Different? Chapter in European Commission Report: Fathers
in Families of Tomorrow.. Copenhagen: Danish Ministry of Social
Lewis C. (1986). Becoming a Father Milton Keynes: Open University
• 1999 (for one year) Joseph Rowntree Foundation .
Understanding families: Closeness and independence in mothers,
fathers, and 11 to 16-year-olds.
• 1998 (for one year) Joseph Rowntree Foundation .
Breakdown in cohabiting relationships: families' negotiations
with non-resident parents.
• 1996 (for three years) Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Fathers, work and family life in a Punjabi British sample
With R. Penn & Y. Solomon.
• 1995 (for three years) Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Fathers, work and family life.
With R. Penn & Y. Solomon.