Growing up in the not-so-distant past I was subjected to countless half threats and inane sayings, none more so than ‘mother knows best’ and ‘wait until your father gets home’.
These, I should imagine, formed part of the soundtrack to the formative years of millions of Brits of a similar age and, although the language and tone may have changed, the sentiment still applies today.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The principal caregiver and nose wiper-in-chief doesn’t always have to be mum while dad needs not be the one who is seldom around to experience daylight at home and regularly miss school performances.
That dynamic is as outdated as it is unhealthy but is largely the reason why the gender pay gap remains a vast one. The statistics are now sadly familiar to all of us: women tend to earn a third less once they have children.
Since the Institute for Fiscal Studies released figures, which show not a great deal of progress has been made in smashing the glass ceiling, much has been said and written about the root causes.
The Government could do more we are told to help, including by legislating to bring down the cost of childcare – a real issue for working parents – as well as ensuring that companies are sticking to the requirement to offer work/life balance to all employees.
But at the heart of this issue lies society’s attitudes to parenting and the accepted wisdom that mums are the only ones to be trusted when it comes to rearing young human beings.
Of course it is nonsense and slowly, very slowly indeed, this outdated view is being chipped away by men who have taken on the mantle of homemaker while their partners continue to develop their careers.
This is something that I have played at during the past four months, having been lucky enough to join the tiny band of dads who have taken up the newly introduced shared parental leave.
The past 15 weeks have been nothing short of lifechanging, allowing me to forge an even deeper bond than I already had with my baby boy.
What has struck me most during this glorious but short lived period of my life is the attitude of others towards my brief change of circumstance. Colleagues were genuinely shocked when I told them I would be away from the office and, more to the point, why.
Well-meaning female friends have shown genuine concern when I occasionally step out without my son, half expect him to have been left asleep next to the Red Lion’s dart board rather than him being looked after by grandparents.
Society will get used to the phenomenon of stay-at-home dads only if more are encouraged to take the plunge and this will only happen if the Government does more to encourage firms to offer dads more than the statutory £140 per week wage for parental leave.
As it stands, it is attractive only to middle class parents or families, like mine, where mum earns more.
Only when more dads feel able to ask their bosses for flexible working will women be able to begin to close the pay gap.
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