- Isabella Lenarduzzi

New fathers are the modern knights in shining armour

The Fatherhood Institute (UK) published a very interesting report on the index of family equality. And yes, from now on we’ll not just speak about equality between men and women in society and work but also equality within the family!

If during the last 50 years the balance of tasks at home has not changed that much, they have at least changed in the last decade. It’s thanks to the level of childcare that the roles are finally starting to change (rather than sharing the responsibilities for maintaining and managing the family house). Divorce and the general tendency to share the childcare have also brought about a shift. Elsewhere we often see that when the parents separate, fathers take their roles and responsibilities more to heart spending more time with their children. Still only 15% of single-parent families are made up of children living with their fathers; 14% of all children live with their mothers only compared to only 2% living only with their fathers.

Fathers are becoming more and more important in family life and are even adopting a new identity as men. They have to oppose this new masculinity and machismo. A man doesn’t have to be macho to be masculine. In fact, I would say the opposite. There is nothing more attractive than a man who doesn’t feel the need to dominate a woman to exist. These are the real modern knights in shining armour. We rave about fathers changing the nappies of their new-born child as if they are naturally inclined only to get involved in play or education and not childcare. In Belgium, for every hour that a mother spends looking after her child, the father spends 39 minutes. In Italy, strangely, it is 45 minutes but only 16 minutes on housework compared to 36 minutes in Belgium (this includes gardening and DIY!) Of course, the leaders in the field, as always, are the Scandinavians with 47 and 53 minutes for the house work and childcare respectively. And where mothers essentially work part time such as in the Netherlands, Germany or Austria, men’s involvement is the lowest.

An American study entitled “A Market Punishing to Mothers” showed that mothers are still being penalised in their careers contrary to fathers. But when tasks are divided equally, the mother’s career can really take off and companies start changing their views on maternity.

The Fatherhood Institute also highlighted that when the roles within the family are really shared equally and each one contributes financially as well as with the childcare and household management, couples are happier and stay together longer. But where a father’s increased involvement has the greatest impact is on the children…

  • They have a better adjusted and less violent adolescence
  • They achieve more at school
  • They form better relationships and are more sociable
  • They have a better self image and are happier

Women’s positions at work and family happiness therefore very much depend on changing men’s attitudes and in particular fathers. So, good luck guys we are slowly but surely beginning to create a new, fairer and happier world! Happy 2011 !