Homeworking and homeschooling enforced by coronavirus restrictions gave dads more time with their offspring, and both parties, as well as mothers, are enjoying the benefits
The coronavirus crisis has been a spur for transformation, with several aspects of our lives changing at a gallop, and that includes the typical role of a father. During the epochal events of 2020 and into 2021, the meaning of fatherhood has been profoundly altered, and for the better.
Most dads have welcomed with open arms the opportunity to spend more time with their offspring through lockdown – even if it meant them attempting to get their heads around quadratic equations and decimal fractions again while homeschooling.
Statistically, mothers bore the brunt of the increased parenting duties, but dads played a more significant part, on average, than they did before the pandemic. The Office for National Statistics data supports this: during the UK’s first lockdown, which began in late March 2020, the amount of childcare provided by fathers jumped 58 per cent, while their working hours were reduced by almost 100 minutes per day.
“There is no doubt that the events of 2020 have changed the face of fatherhood,” says Dr Amanda Gummer, a child psychologist, parenting expert and author of Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide. “I believe many dads have seen the benefits of this way of life now, and therefore will be unwilling to go fully back to how it was before.”
Dr Gummer points to a recent study in the US by Making Caring Common that revealed almost 70 per cent of fathers felt closer to their children during the coronavirus crisis. Thanks to the move to hybrid working, with people performing their jobs at home and at the office, she is confident fathers will continue to relish a more active role in parenting in the coming weeks, months and years.
“Homeworking and homeschooling have significantly altered what it means to be a man,” she continues. “Since some normality has returned, with the children returning to school, I have seen more dads performing school drop-offs and pick-ups than ever before. Being a father now means being more involved in the day-to-day activities of your child’s life – pre-pandemic, not many dads got to experience this to the extent that is possible now.”
Bilkis Miah, director and co-founder of You Be You, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to inspire primary school children and break gender stereotypes, is similarly optimistic that the more engaged father is here to stay – and this extends to other areas that traditionally have been the women’s domain.
“Men have had to step up and fill in gaps, particularly for those who have key workers as partners,” she says. “The result: more time spent with children and sharing the ‘load’ of parenthood.
“Men are now doing more housework and childcare than ever before. A recent report highlighted how the number of parents saying they shared housework relatively equally jumped from 26 per cent before Covid-19 to 41 per cent during the pandemic.”
Miah is hopeful that the increased role played by fathers since early 2020 will create a virtuous circle that will inform and empower future generations. “Being more present at home enables men to flourish as fathers, but it also generates a deeper bond with their children,” she adds. “Moreover, this evolution of fatherhood helps lay the foundation of the ‘new normal’. With luck, young boys can take these lessons forward and be inspired to be better fathers themselves.”
This article was originally published by the Telegraph in May 2021, and sponsored by Armani