“Childcare is very much fathers’ business” – why you need to take problems with childcare seriously

The results of the recently-published childcare survey should mean a lot to dads.



The recent survey on how the childcare system in the United Kingdom is seriously flawed centred mostly around mums, particularly the justifiable outrage about how it impedes parents. The majority of the sites and blogs that posted the survey are predominantly aimed at mothers and women still account for the vast majority of primary carers.

But the survey, which illustrated how terrifyingly expensive and often frustratingly ineffective the childcare system is in the U.K., is something that dads should be looking at closely.

Jeremy Davies, a spokesman for The Fatherhood Institute who participated in the survey, says, “Childcare tends to be thought of – including by politicians – as mothers’ responsibility. Sometimes even mothers themselves talk about it in this way, describing the challenges of finding childcare in order to continue their careers, for example. In fact, most fathers couldn’t work if their children didn’t have someone (either the mother or a paid childcare provider) to look after them, so it’s ridiculous to consider this vital sector – and parents’ use of it – as only of interest to mothers.”

Elliott Rae, the founder of Music Football Fatherhood, also told The Guardian: “Extortionate childcare costs reinforce traditional gendered parenting roles and make it difficult for dads to have flexibility in their work and be fully active and engaged fathers.”

While the majority of respondent were mothers, there was an active effort to get more dads to give their opinion. “We (and others) tried to get as many dads as possible to participate, by sharing on social media,” says Davies. “Around 15% of respondents were dads – a decent proportion, given the extent to which things like this tend to be framed and promoted as ‘all about the mums’.”

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development points out that the U.K. has the third most expensive childcare system in the world after Slovakia and Switzerland, with a third of parents saying they spent more than their mortgage or rent on childcare. The problems with the system are impacting not just parents, but the sector’s workers as well. Nursery World discovered that 10% of childcare workers are living in poverty.

So what does the survey really mean for fathers?

“For us one of the most interesting results is that we now have very solid backing from mothers (90% of a very large sample) for our calls for dads to have their own individual right to a substantial period of parental leave, paid at a decent rate,” says Jeremy Davies. “It’s vital for gender equality and we need mums, who ‘own’ the parenting space, to be pushing for this or it will never happen.”

He adds, “Here at the Fatherhood Institute we think childcare is very much fathers’ business, and that men as well as women should be contributing to debates about everything from parenting leave to early years funding.”

Read more:

Take part in vital research about older workers during the pandemic

How businesses can support dads in the workplace

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