New mum and ‘Saturday’s’ singer Una Healy has recently talked about her frustration with fiancee, rugby player Ben Foden and his inability to participate in childcare. According to Una, Ben refuses to change little Aoife-Belle’s nappies at all. She said: 'That’s his weakness. He thinks that’s my job. I’m very good at nappies and I don’t mind the smell because I did nursing for a year and a half. A nappy is a chicken korma compared to the smell of an open wound!'
It may be true that fathers in the ‘noughties’ are more involved in their children's day-to-day lives than ever before but it’s still the case for many woman to assume total childcare responsibilities when both parents work full time. As a result, woman are more than often drained and frustrated, whilst their partners carry on living their lives as before, happy in the knowledge that their partner will sort everything out.
Unfortunately, Una Healy’s comment doesn’t come as a surprise for many new mums as their partners take less and less of the childcare responsibilities. Lauren Scott, 27, from Colchester, Essex is in a similar predicament.
“If my partner Joel ever gets involved, he expects me to put a list on the fridge of exactly what to do-step by step. He likes me to get Anaya dressed and ready for him in the morning and have the bag packed full of nappies and wipes and be up the night before making her food etc for the day and put it ready in the fridge for him to warm up. He then just has a fun day playing with her- or relaxing whilst she sleeps-a far cry from what I do as a mum!”
After your partner has taken his two weeks’ statutory paternity leave, has he then fulfilled his parenting deeds? Off he goes back to work, the baby stops sleeping and the day turns into 12 hours where you are solely responsible for an infant who is entirely dependent on you. Go back to work yourself and the minute you get home you are in charge of an infant who is solely dependent on you, whilst your partner pushes ahead with his life as it was, you pick up the pieces at home. The challenges of motherhood seem to be putting women to a test when their partner is less and less involved.
Some mothers are happy to take full responsibility of childcare, delighted in the knowledge that they can put their time, effort and love into bringing up a child. Some father’s, however, resent changes in their life and feel more pressurised as role of breadwinner, possibly working more hours and not having the time to spend at home with their new family.
As always it boils down to having a family/work/life balance. This is difficult as parenting is still often influenced by traditional attitudes and the practicalities of going back to work versus childcare. It's a good idea to sit and talk with your partner about the responsibilities you will both share, for instance, who gets up in the night with the baby if you both have work the next day?
In his article, Leader, Father’s and Family Research, Dr Richard Fletcher says: “You can break down the barrier between work and home by telling your kids about your work – where it is, what you do, what happened to you today. You could call them from work, or take them in and show them around.
Before you get home from work, do things that prepare you to be with your kids. This could be listening to some music or going for a short walk. This ‘transition time’ can help you move more smoothly from work to home life”
Katie Charles, 31, from Swindon, Wiltshire says, “Graham wasn’t really spending any time with Lauren ,3, and Lois, 1, and I feared it was easier for him to be at work than it was for him to have any responsibility over the girls. I suggested he took them on a Saturday morning, to the park, to the café, to feed the ducks, a small outing, so they had some bonding time with him and I got some time off. He also had to think himself about nappies, wipes, spare clothes etc- it really worked for us”
Benefits of a good balance
Children with Dads who take on an involved and interested participation in their children’s lives benefit from feeling “involved, confident and happy” according to Fletcher. A good work-balance also helps you develop a better relationship with your partner. Dr Fletcher concludes with a nod towards the benefits of a good balance by suggesting: “If you have a fulfilled family life, you’re likely to be happier at work. A strong commitment to both work and family can give you satisfaction and fulfilment in both areas of your life”. Ben Foden might want to have a go at changing Aoife-Belle's nappies after all. Even if they do smell like chicken korma.
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