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The founders of the DadPad project told us about why it’s important for men to think about fatherhood, and their options around paternity leave, as early as possible.
For many working dads, the moment you actually become a father and hold your baby can be the first time it really hits home.
That is often the point dads really start thinking about how they are going to care for their child, and what parental leave they might want to take.
That’s not a failing among men. While mums have nine months of physical change and time to think about what’s coming it’s different for men. Though neither partner can really prepare for the experience of parenthood.
DadPad is a scheme to help dads get ahead of the game.
It was started in Cornwall by husband and wife team Julian and Hannah Bose. Julian explains, “It’s important for parents to get working as a team early on given the challenges of parenthood. Not just in those early days and weeks but through school, into the teenage years and beyond.
“I wanted to give dads a picture of what it’s like to be a father. But the overriding principle is that it can’t be too overwhelming.”
DadPad is an app and a series of flip books covering baby basics. There’s illustrated guides on issues like how to change a nappy or how to hold a baby. And there’s sections on looking after yourself and supporting your partner.
When conceiving the idea Julian simply drew round an iPad to get the outline for the books. But the couple were keen that the information was not just online. “You’re going to be using your phone a lot in the first few weeks as a dad,” explains Julian. “You’ll be making phone calls to family, taking photos. We wanted there to be a physical product too that you can look at or pass on to other dads. It’s an engagement tool.” Hannah adds, “With just an app it’s easy for health professionals to talk to the mum and then just tell the dad to go home and download something.”
It’s easy to imagine dads-to-be ignoring the instruction to get an app; either because they aren’t fully engaged in what’s to come or because they are overjoyed and overwhelmed. The book is something they can pick up and look at, and refer back to once fatherhood is underway.
It was that feeling of being an afterthought that inspired Julian to start the DadPad project. After son Freddy was born in 2005 he was sent home from the hospital when visiting ended. “I had to leave at 10pm,” remembers Julian. “But Hannah had a difficult first night, particularly with breastfeeding. If I’d been there and I’d had DadPad I could’ve helped.”
That experience combined with his experience in the probation service to trigger the DadPad idea.
“I worked with men for 10 years and got to understand how they learn, their limitations and their strengths. When those offenders looked back the thing they lamented most was whether they’d been a good partner and a good father. What I noticed is that we never did enough prevention work to tackle the problems upstream.”
Key to the DadPad mission is to get men thinking about fatherhood as early as possible. That includes assessing the options when it comes to paternity leave and Shared Parental Leave. “All the evidence shows that the first 1000 days are crucial, that’s when dads are most motivated. This is how we give them the confidence to engage. And we need to give them time too.”
“We’ve got to change the mindset,” adds Hannah. “Dads have to feel confident. It’s not easy as a young dad to stand up and say I’m taking Shared Parental Leave but hopefully this will help.”
DadPad is being adopted by an increasing number of health authorities stretching from the couples’ home patch in Cornwall through the south of England and up to Manchester. The company, a social enterprise, has just taken on two new staff.
Their latest product is a ‘Quick Read’ version of the DadPad. And they working on a same sex version and a similar product for mums which will pose questions designed to get couples talking as early as possible about how they’ll approach parenthood.
They sent a copy to rugby player Jack Nowell who apparently passed it on to team mate and England player Henry Slade when he announced early this year he’s to be a dad.
Just as pleasing as the celebrity endorsements and the growing popularity of the idea in NHS circles are the personal anecdotes.
Says Julian, “As a social enterprise I still have to pay the bills. But every time something drops in the inbox saying that DadPad has really helped I’m grinning from ear to ear for the rest of the day.”
“Someone tweeted us a picture of a young dad, just a teenager, with his DadPad looking so pleased and proud,” adds Hannah. “That’s when you know this is really working.”
— Chi Kernow Midwives (@chikernow) April 30, 2019