Share childcare responsibilities? Not if you’re British!

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Here’s an interesting suggestion. Research organisation The Fatherhood Institute has called for early years care providers, schools, plus social work and maternity service providers to publish data on their engagement with fathers. This data, the institute has argued, should be inspected by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

childcare, equality, gender equality, housework, shared childcare responsibilities
Father and child. After 24 minutes, however, he will be handing baby back to mum. Pic credit below.

What is the point of this? Why bother insisting these organisations collect even more information and face even further regulation and inspection?

The aim is, in fact, to address several issues that affect both men and women. The Fatherhood Institute has just published its Fairness in Families Index for 2016. This is an annual study of data from 22 countries collected from sources including the World Bank and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (for 2016 it was also a Capstone Project, written in collaboration with the London School of Economics).

The Index concluded that;

  • For every hour of childcare carried out by most British women, a man will do 24 minutes. This makes the UK the worst in the developed world for sharing childcare responsibilities. Portuguese men, the most active on the childcare front, are likely to do 39 minutes.
  • British couples are more likely to share housework than many other nations with UK men doing 34 minutes for every hour carried out by a woman and ranking the UK fifth in the table.
  • Despite the introduction of shared parental leave in 2015, the UK’s parental leave system is eleventh in the league table.

The Fatherhood Institute has come up with several reasons as to why the UK rates so poorly. It has stressed that lack of interest from men is not the reason for the disparity. The pay gap between men and women is highlighted as one reason (although pay gap data has to be treated with caution, it’s not always clear cut and this post sheds some light on the reasons why). Men often have to stay in the workforce and cannot become stay at home parents or work part time as the family needs their income. Secondly, the parental leave system is nominally equal but, in reality, far from it as men are terrified of requesting their rights for fear of being penalised by employers.

A further issue is the mother-centric way in which family services are provided. I can speak from personal experience as a stay at home father. I’ve had numerous issues with healthcare providers and medical professionals. I’ve generally found the early years system and formal school system to be very inclusive. Informally, however, there are still barriers to men getting fully engaged because it is still expected that mum will be the responsible for all childcare.

These barriers are the reason why the Fatherhood Institute is calling for early years operators, schools etc. to provide information on how they engage with fathers.

Anecdotally, I have of campaign groups asking such institutions to provide data on engagement with men. The suggestion is often met with resistance as they simply don’t want the added burden or are afraid of being made to look bad when it is publicly revealed they’ve never thought of doing it.

If organisations had to prove they were engaging with fathers, they may make a greater effort to actually do it. This would benefit all of society; men, women and children.

As an aside, last year I went on a quest to establish how many stay at home fathers exist in the UK. It transpired that nobody is collecting this data. I recommend you have a read as I unearthed some equally interesting information relating to the number of stay at home mums in Britain.

Back to the matter in hand. I was somewhat taken aback at how poorly the UK ranked in terms of sharing childcare. I know British society is far from perfect, but I thought we would rank significantly higher.  It’s yet another sign that we must do more to encourage men to be more involved on the domestic front. In so doing, we will also improve women’s equality.

Are you surprised the UK ranks so poorly in terms of sharing childcare? What would you suggest doing to solve the issue? Please leave a comment below.


Pic credit; Pexels.com. 



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13 thoughts on “Share childcare responsibilities? Not if you’re British!”

  1. If they’d asked our family, the figures would have been even worse. I’m astounded, thinking about my friends, that the figures are so high for men.

    Ours isn’t really childcare because we both work, but if I look at our out of hours time spent with N, it’s totally one sided. Admittedly, things are now evening out a bit more now N is older and able to go out with his dad on the farm, because he’d rather go on the farm and follow his dad around (he works 7 days a week), than come out to exciting places with me (I’m gutted!).

    My OH has never been to the school since N started in September (even for parents’ evening), he’s only once done pick up from after school club, and if N’s ill (thankfully rarely), it’s me who has to work from home and look after him, compared with him who just can’t take time off from the farm. If N didn’t want to go on the farm with his dad, it would just be me, and even on the farm it’s just N tagging along, not really childcare.

    I do now dance twice a week though, so the OH has to be in to look after him in the evenings (so 6-7 hours a week), The other times he looks after him (reads, takes him to work with him) are for blogging conferences. I’ve suggested that he take some time off on those days to actually do something simple like take N swimming or to the park, but they’ll just go to work as normal.

    For me I love to have the time with N, it’s more about family time the 3 of us which we just don’t have. Our childcare is outside of the house with early drop off at school and after school club so none of that gets divvied up anyway.

    1. Well, without wishing to get myself in trouble, I am a country boy. I have spent enough time on farms to know farmers are often married to the land. I will merely suggest that some time swimming or some other activity would be a good idea. I shall now quietly withdraw.

  2. As the report makes clear, when you wade through the headlines, UK men are amongst the highest for wanting to spend more time with their kids but the lowest for actually doing it. This is partly due to sexist stereotypes, partly due to how paternity,maternity leave is set up, partly due to stigma. We all need to change out attitudes. I have taken a couple of weeks paternity leave and come back to find my job still there but my responsibilities gone, can’t imagine what it would be like if i’d taken months . And I work for a fairly good employer. If women STILL find it hard to take maternity leave, imagine how it is for men. It’s presumed just to be a skive and that you don’t care about your job. Similarly, I went to maternity classes with my wife as she wanted support and was blatantly scoffed at, taken my kids to bounce and rhyme, been the only dad there and been viewed with suspicion. Ditto being the dad saying hello to the other mums in the school playground. Then there’s the pay gap. If my wife is off work with the baby I can’t afford to and that becomes self perpetuating, since as the one with the job my full time hours are needed to keep us afloat and then I’m super aware that I can’t afford to piss my employer off in any way. Employers, businesses, govt’s and women themselves say they want men to share more child care responsibilities but then do a million little things that reinforce the notion that men aren’t wanted and can’t perform in the childcare/fatherhood arena. Yes I know there are lots of men that can’t and don’t want to but there are millions of us that want to.

    1. Absolutely correct, this is a case of changing workplace culture and society. The report is not suggesting for one second that UK men don’t want to spend more time with their kids. Their is also alternative data showing that men spent 15 mins a day with their kids in 1970 and this had increased to three hours a day by 1997. It’s not all bad, we have come a long way in a generation. There’s not question, however, that more needs to be done.

  3. I wonder how much of the data is even remotely accurate, I know that when we fill out our census form our views on who does how much housework are very different and so I will fill that part of the form out with wildly different times then my husband will, and I know that if we had children the same would translate across to childcare.

    Anyway, accuracy of data is one issue. The bigger issue here is work place culture.

    Until there is no penalty (short or long term) for parents to look after their children from employers there will continue to be childcare issues that impact families based on fear of financial and career progression penalties. Sadly gender does come into it with Women as often as not being forced to choose family over career and income and Men being forced to choose career and income over family. Both have long term negative impacts on families and careers.

    I don’t know that regulation is the answer, in general I am rather against too much regulation as it restricts our freedoms. What if you could only get childcare if both parents were to participate 50/50 every single week? How would that impact a family? However, we do need some way to create a culture change in all aspects of parenting and it’s good to discuss ways this can be brought about.

    1. As it happens, I would trust this data more than other sources. Even so, you have picked up on the main point. It’s not an issue of fathers being lazy or mother’s interfering, it is largely down to workplace culture and a childcare system that is weighed against men. Your 50/50 idea is a very interesting one. Certainly food for thought.

  4. There really is still such a divide between the way society (and the workplace) thinks of the traditional roles of men and women and kind of manages to perpetuate that. I think maybe sometimes we do unwittingly do it ourselves – maybe us mums can go into ‘control-freak’ mode and just almost unthinkingly take opportunities away from the dads to help out more. Obviously sometimes there are also just dads that aren’t that into parenting and some who are handed the opportunity on a plate and choose to do something else instead (not naming any names!). Still it is so obvious that things have changed wildly since we were kids in the 70s – a time when it was the exception rather than the rule for men to even be present at their children’s birth. Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout John

  5. As an early years primary teacher – I’m not sure that collecting data from schools would really help – if anything it would just put more pressure on teachers to make attempts to increase engagement for the wrong reasons – and I don’t think this is the issue. I always invited both parents to parent consultations and often only the mothers attended. I had a few dads who did all the school runs and as a school we used to have ‘daddy day’ where the dads came into school but this was always really difficult for those children whose dads couldn’t attend or who didn’t have a dad. I’d be really interested to know how many dads in the U.K. Do share childcare by either working part time or being a sahd. #brillblogposts

    1. Well, if you follow the link in my post you’dd see I did some investigative work last year. Nobody knows how many many SAHDs there are or SAHMs. The data simply isn’t collected. I’d be interested to know what you think the “wrong reasons” are? The Fatherhood Institute is essentially highlighting the fact guys want to play more active tole with their kids, but that various barriers exist to them doing this. Would it be an extra burden? Yes, that, sadly, is unavoidable. Would it be worth it? I think a lot families would benefit as a result.

  6. I agree with your points and at one time, I worked part time and I was the main childcare person. My husband however, raised a daughter alone, and worked to make it possible for me to work part time and then go onto study. He then became ill and lost his job. He’s on the road to recovery now and we’ve swapped roles – so he tends to be the main childcare person now whilst I work full time. Our youngest is at school in September and if he remains healthy, he plans on getting a part-time job. We’ve broke our norm due to health issues and as I’ve studied now, I am able to get a higher paid job than he is. I suppose if we hadn’t had those issues we would have continued and possibly both just worked full-time.

    There is certainly a divide and it’s just the roles we end up falling into in our society. I agree it’s the culture.


  7. When I look at school events organised by parents, its always the mothers who are roped into things, regardless of whether they be working full time or not. If my daughter is sick in the creche, they always ring me. Mum is the go-to. When my daughter starts school, Im going to make sure my husbands is the primary contact number.

    1. Ha ha! Good luck with that. I am the main carer and the school still put my wife’s work number down as the main contact (something I remedied pretty quickly I should add!). As you can see, when us dads try and do the correct thing, we are sometimes thwarted.

  8. Our school is v inclusive and equal to both parents and my husband does the school run most morning and I collect. The pay gap makes a huge difference and women are penalised by the workforce for procreating. We need a huge cultural shift and flexible working to come into place in the UK. Brilliant article John

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