For the modern father the Covid-19 global pandemic has affected many aspects of their lives.
The pandemic has brought changing times for the modern father. It has made many people reassess things in their life and consider what is important to them. We have all had to work from home and be more flexible about how we work, fitting it around family time and childcare demands far more than ever before.
The lockdowns have allowed those who were previously struggling to be home for dinner, bath or bedtime the opportunity to be there for all of those times. Parents have been able to share these roles and responsibilities. However, will these changes last forever?
There have been some really positive changes in terms of families being able to spend more time together. Many couples have co-ordinated their schedules to juggle work commitments as well as childcare responsibilities, including the dreaded home schooling. Mothers have still statistically been the primary care-givers and taken the lead in the childcare responsibilities. But the pandemic has allowed many more men to be around and provide support. This is something they had never been able to do before.
During the national lockdowns, those fathers who may have chosen the ‘big career’ where the mother has sacrificed hers for availability, and who regret this, have enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with children, eat meals with them, take on some of the childcare responsibilities. The pandemic did allow even those fathers with very long strict hours to be around more than they had ever been before. Men who may have never been actively involved in looking after their children on a day to day basis, or even engaging with them in respect of homework, have either had to or have had the chance to step up to those responsibilities .
Too much to handle?
For others this extra proximity has caused further strain on a relationship that may have already been under pressure. Whilst some fathers seem to have really embraced the change to their parental roles, others seem to be itching to get back to normality and leave childcare responsibilities behind.
When there has been a breakdown in a relationship and parents have to consider how the children are going to spend time with each of them, work commitments are an important factor that cannot be ignored. Some relationships break down as a result of the little time that the families spend together. Sometimes there is resentment with one parent being at home, caring for children and the other feeling they have to go out to work and earn money in order to maintain the home and family. This resentment can run both ways. A good career may have been sacrificed, as it can be difficult for two high powered jobs to co-exist within a family dynamic. It is sometimes difficult for parents to see how one partner (often the father) can suddenly be far more available to the children following the breakdown of a relationship, especially if previously they had been unable to commit to being home on time even one day a week.
Moving in the right direction
Pre-pandemic, there were already signs of change. More employers have been recognising the need to allow for shared parenting leave. And post-divorce or separation, more fathers have been wanting equal access to their children and to be viewed as equivalent to mothers in terms of the right to care for their children. There was already beginning to be a shift away from the pattern of care between separated parents. Traditionally the father has been ‘allowed’ every other weekend and one night in the week. The trend is now towards a more equal parenting pattern, other commitments permitting.
Waiting for the new normal
Many companies have reported that some of the changes made to working practices during the pandemic, such as more home working, are here to stay. Only time will tell to what extent that will be.
When considering how a child should spend time with each parent, and the division of care between them, the primary consideration has to be what is in the child’s best interests. Parents’ views often conflict on this. Children frequently experience trauma and distress following the breakdown of their parents’ relationship. They crave stability and security. Whilst a newly separated father is currently available at home to care for his children, he may be demanded back in the office full-time in a few months. It may not be fair (to the children) for him to be given a level of time that may not be sustainable in the long term. It is difficult sometimes for parents to see that ensuring there is stability and security for their children may mean seeing them less regularly during the week. The key however is trying to limit the impact any change has upon the children.
Let’s hope that the balancing of child care roles and responsibilities is here to stay. Whatever the new normal is, let’s keep the needs of the child uppermost in our minds to avoid further distress and disruption in what has already been a very challenging year.
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