11 weeks since becoming a father

Now seems like an opportune moment to reflect further on my research experiences and life as a father. I have been attempting to reconcile work and family life through increasing home working. It is really lovely to get the chance to see Luke during the day and I am also able to lighten the load with Holly by occassionally watching him if she is going for a run, or just getting her a drink when I have a coffee. I find myself wondering how working fathers manage to build any kind of meaningful emotional bond with their children at this stage of parenthood.

I regularly feel like a secondary actor in Luke’s life and I am probably more involved than most working fathers at this stage. How must other fathers be feeling? The secondary role of a father is something I grapple with on a daily basis. I feel the pull far more significantly when I am sitting downstairs working and can hear Holly and Luke upstairs. It is lovely on the weekend when I feel released to take a far more active role, but the disparity between his connection to Holly and me will only grow as he continues to spend more and more time with her.

Such disconnection with fatherhood and work leads me to some of my recent literature review work on masculinity, work and parenthood. I have encountered articles considering ‘caring maculinity’ and ‘involved fatherhood’ which seem to be persistent terms relating to re-conceptualised masculinity in modern western society. These concepts are drawn from the increasing prevalence of stay at home fathers and men who have greater involvement in their children’s formative years. I feel like I can place myself in the middle ground with this. I am not a fully involved father in the same way as someone who actually leads on childcare, but I know I am far more involved than the vast majority of fathers by virtue of my literal presence in the home and consistent willingness to support Holly with various household chores such as cooking, cleaning etc. I wonder if I can conceptualise my involved fatherhood as a version of caring masculinity? I often have to stop myself and consider if I am being true to the values I am espousing in my research. It is these reflective points in any given day of any given week that I feel are crucial if fathers are going to make meaningful steps towards genuine equal shares in parental responsibility.

The opposing end of the spectrum still represents, what I presume to be, an overwhelming majority in terms of mothers dominating childcare. My question is, will the trend for greater father involvement influence organisations to reassess their own attitudes and policies towards family life? Certainly case studies in Sweden point to shifting attitudes and statistical involvement secondary to favourable father’s leave. Does statutory policy have to precede social change? More importantly, is written policy enough, or does the oranisation bear some additional responsibility to promote and educate their employees about the organisational values such as ‘people first’. I encountered an intersting example in a recent interview where the couple I interviewed were simply unaware of the precise policies and benefits available to them. This was an example of a father trusting the organisation by virtue of his collegiate colleagues. Such trust, I hope, is not misplaced. However, it did lead me to think that the organisation does have an important role to play in not simply presuming the individual should be fully aware of all their entitlements. What if the organisation explicitly directed their employees to the policies and benefits they are entitled to, when such policies become relevant? Such questions lead me to another more pressing question, why don’t organisations already do this?

I recognise we cannot expect organisations to take full responsibility and I believe individuals also have a role to play in shifting attitudes. However, the relative status of these individuals is very important. Leading by example is critically important in any organisational culture.  Certainly, I wish to use my research as a voice for change and subversion of the masculine norms in organisations. I hope, by constructing myself as an expert in this area, I can lead by example and encourage other to follow suit!

I will try to increase my frequency from now on as I feel this is a critical time in my self reflection as a working, studying father.

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