The role of dad has changed. No longer is he the just the archetypal breadwinner, the mysterious figure who makes an appearance at 6 o’clock, eats his dinner and then it’s time for bed. Dads play an ever-growing role in the upbringing of their children and the expectation to earn a good living for their family is now often shared with a partner.
Regardless of the increasing responsibilities of a modern dad, it’s a staggering statistic that only 8 per cent of single parents are fathers. Furthermore, recent research has shown there are over a million children who grow up in a fatherless home and that number is rising by 20,000 each day.
I’m hopeful that the number of children growing up in fatherless families is a problem that will reduce. As a lawyer, I only see the difficult cases, but it’s without doubt that parents are becoming more aware of their children’s needs for a stable and balanced upbringing. I am always buoyed when I see clients who tell me that they recognise the need for their children to maintain strong relationships with both parents even following separation.
By engaging in prolonged and bitter arguments and using a child as a bargaining tool, parents are only damaging their own relationships with their children as well as souring relations between them and their former partner.
It’s worth remembering that the law recognises that the father’s role is every bit as important as the mother’s when parents separate. It used to be the impression that men did not have the time to look after the kids due to work commitments, but employers are increasingly allowing flexible working hours to dads as well as mums.
Mad Men’s Don Draper may cut an enviable figure in a fictitious world amongst the glamour of 1960’s New York, but his practices as a detached weekend dad certainly do not resonate with the vast majority of fathers in today’s world.
Although there is a growing focus on the role of the father in society, more needs to be done to change the perception of single fathers to encourage them to have meaningful time with their children on a regular basis.
Ed Kitchen is a leading family lawyer at Slater & Gordon.