New Dad Diaries / Week 4

Despite a lot of rhetoric, society is seemingly against dads playing an equal role in the raising of their children. Sorted’s Chris Kerr says enough is enough.

Fathers are just as important in raising children as mothers. I know this statement seems outrageous, after all our government, media, legal and health systems often have you believe otherwise – but the evidence emphatically confirms what I am saying.

I am mentioning this as it is highly likely you may have been made to feel differently. Whilst I have nothing but praise for the NHS, which looked after my wife and baby, national health policy certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

On the day she was born, Thea and her mum needed to stay overnight for monitoring. At 4 pm, just a few hours after her birth, I was asked to leave. I was told I could come back the next day, but only for four hours. My ‘slot’ could start at 9 am. The edict was issued due to Covid-19 risks, which I get. But the proclamation still left me feeling like a necessary, but ultimately unimportant, part of my child’s life!

Yet, I was the lucky one. Some mothers and babies were in the ward for many days. Those poor dads ended up missing key time with mum and baby due to the NHS’s draconian policy. In one case, a baby was taken into hospital with serious concerns over their health. Regardless of the seriousness, the child’s dad was told to stay home.

ALL OUT AT SEA: society has a clear role for mum Alicia – but less so for fathers like Chris.

Pre-birth wasn’t much better either. I would often be waiting outside the hospital with numerous other expectant fathers who weren’t allowed into appointments. As far as the NHS is concerned, fathers are literally being left out in the cold.

This is a reflection of society’s rather backwards view that fathers aren’t all that important.

In recent years, government policy has been so neglectful of dads that the Fatherhood Institute has called on them to include, as a priority, the provision of detailed guidance to ensure that pre and post-birth services engage with, and supports, new fathers.

Unfortunately, the media paints an even worse picture of fathers, who are mostly presented as oversized kids who add to the wise, practical mum’s burden in singlehandedly raising her children. And don’t even get me started on the dreadfully researched extremely feminist drivel that says fathers aren’t needed at all!

Fathers are important, and study after study confirms it.

A BUNDLE OF JOY: young Thea’s parents love and cherish their first-born child.

In an analysis of over 100 studies on child-parent relationships, a loving and nurturing father was discovered to be as important for a child’s happiness, well-being and social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother. Surprise, surprise.

Other research shows a positive correlation between father engagement and a child’s ability to make good moral decisions, problem solve and connect with others. In one study, spanning 26 years, researchers found that the biggest factor in developing empathy in children was father involvement.

It also shows people who had an absent father account for 90% of people who commit serious crimes; 75% of adolescent murderers; 70% of juveniles in prison; 63% of all youth suicides; 71% of all high school dropouts; 90% of homeless and runaway kids and 80% of rapists with anger problems. People without a dad are also twice as likely to suffer obesity and 279% more likely to carry weapons and deal drugs.

Society really must change its view on fatherhood, and urgently.

Let me be clear. To explain why fathers matter is not to imply that mothers don’t. I am simply arguing that fatherhood has a point (not that motherhood doesn’t). A child suffers greatly when either mum, or dad, is out of the picture. Let’s move towards a society that recognises that and celebrates, supports and encourages both.

Chris Kerr is a senior executive in the UK legal industry.

Tip of the week

Remember that your kid doesn’t need you to be perfect. They just need you to be present. In the early weeks, feed your baby, bathe them, play with them, and cuddle them. It really makes a real difference.

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.

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