Dads devote more time

DADS are playing an ever bigger role in bringing up baby, according to the latest survey. In the run up to Father's Day tomorrow , features editor TRACEY SPARLING meets an Ipswich dad who spends as much time as he can with his young daughter.

By Tracey Sparling

DADS are playing an ever bigger role in bringing up baby, according to the latest survey.

In the run up to Father's Day tomorrow , features editor TRACEY SPARLING meets an Ipswich dad who spends as much time as he can with his young daughter.

WE are forever being bombarded with survey results.

It's one of the favoured marketing tools that companies increasingly use to produce statistics that promote their product.

Of course, you can extrapolate just about whatever you like from sets of figures, and sometimes you have to wonder if we are really getting the facts.

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But, trends can usually be trusted, so when we're told that the emergence of new age man has produced new age dads, it's probably true. Today, fathers are 90 per cent more involved in bringing up their children than 60 years ago, a survey has shown.

Men are now taking part in every aspect of childhood from changing nappies, bathing, re-arranging work schedules to providing an emotional crutch if needed. The father who has never changed a nappy is happily becoming an endangered species.

According to the evidence of film scenes, fathers were expected only to pace up and down outside the delivery room, chain-smoking and when the baby was born they would admire the new infant, say “well done, old thing” to the new mother and then go down the pub, buy a round and distribute cigars.

How times have changed.

Over the past few decades, fathers have become an integral part of childbirth - many even go to antenatal classes. The most recent development for new dads is the right to paternity leave, and a chance to form those deep bonds with their babies.

The survey, commissioned by Disney, questioned 1,000 fathers of various ages across the country. It found:

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In the 1940s, dads-to-be did not hold the hand of their partner as she went through the final stages of labour. Now, 95pc of men do.

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Changing nappies remained unpopular until the 1970s when only 34pc men carried out the chore, compared to 97pc of men today.

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Almost all (96pc) of men today have bathed their child, whereas just 11pc of men did so in the 1940s.

Up to 88pc of men of the new millennium have made their child's packed lunch, compared to 8pc in the 1940s.

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Working patterns have changed, too. Most men today (93pc) have taken time off work to look after their children, compared to 7pc in the 1950s.

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In the 50s, only 7pc of men worked flexible hours, whereas 83pc of fathers do so today.

Adrienne Burgess, from the national information centre on fatherhood, Father's Direct, said: “The findings reflect other research that shows fathers' roles are really changing, and that children, mums and dads want it that way.”

Research released in 2005 by the Equal Opportunities Commission found fathers' involvement with under-five's had risen 800pc over a generation, with today's dads in two-parent families responsible for about one third of childcare.

Ms Burgess added: “Separated dads, too, are spending more time with their children than ever before.”

Perceptions of fatherhood are also now different, with 24pc of dads today ranking being a good role model as the most important part of parenthood.

Only 2pc prioritised the more traditional role of disciplinarian.

Ruth Beman, from Disney, said: “We are delighted to see that dads are getting more involved in their children's lives - now we have a nation of hands-on dads.”

Regionally, 91pc of men in the eastern area agree that their children are as important to them as their work and career, and 66pc of men in the region disagree with the statement that fathers are not as naturally close to their children as mothers are.

DEVOTED dad Carl Millis loves the whole day a week he gets to look after his daughter Evie.

Dad duties don't stop during the rest of the week, but the dad-and-daughter-day enables his wife Julie to go to work, and they enjoy quality time.

Carl, 34, works 9-5 Monday to Saturday as lettings manager at Goddard & Co rentals, and he said: “I like having a day off during the week because on Wednesday I get the whole day with Evie, and I really appreciate that time.

“I get her up, washed and dressed and we have breakfast then I take her to Bright Sparks nursery in Stoke Park Drive and collect her before lunch. The nursery has really been superb, and she likes playing with the other children.”

Evie, who will be three in July, introduces herself to everybody as Evie 'Maxie' Millis, although her parents cannot fathom why!

Carl was there when Evie was born. He said: “I must have walked 25 miles that day - pacing and pacing the room, because I was extremely nervous. If I go through it again, I'll probably feel the same!

“The nurses said it went very smoothly, but to me it seemed to last forever. She was actually born at the same time as a tremendous clap of thunder.

“I didn't cut the cord - I couldn't quite do that! In fact my abiding memory of that day, is getting through three packets of cigarettes outside afterwards, as I phoned everybody with the news. I couldn't light the first few, because my hands were shaking so much.”

He said: “I think times are changing a bit, in that it isn't always the mum who gets a call in an emergency. Touch wood, I haven't had a call at work that Evie has needed anything, but I wouldn't hesitate to go if there was an emergency- everybody at work has families, and understands.”

So does he put more family time in than his own dad did?

He said: “Actually I probably spend less time with Evie, than my dad did with me. My dad was a lorry driver until he was injured in an accident, so I always remember him being at home.

“It was very important to him to be there as much as he could, and he would of out of his way to do things for us.”

1 Bob Geldof

2 David Beckham

3 Jamie Oliver

4 Jonathan Ross

5 Johnny Depp

6 Freddie Flintoff

7 Chris Martin

8 Brad Pitt

9 Jude Law

10 Paul McCartney.

There was a time when the most a man was expected to do at the birth of his child was fetch towels, boil water, and not get in the way.

Now, eyebrows go up at the very thought of him missing this most precious moment. Most women take it for granted that their man will be there, rubbing shoulders, mopping brows and standing by while the baby is born. And, if truth be known, most men expect it too. But does that mean it's always for the best?

A recent study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, found that nervous fathers could actually be more of a hindrance than a help in the delivery room.

The study, which looked at Caesarean births, found that anxious men passed on their fears to mothers. This increased the pain experienced by women immediately after the operation, which could affect recovery.

Bath University's Dr Ed Keogh, who led the research, suggested targeting the "emotional wellbeing" of the birth partner to help reduce the mother's anxiety and fear.

So is preparation the key - or should some dads simply stay away?

"It seems to have become the norm to have fathers there. But some feel it's just not for them, and the expectations can bring a lot of pressure," said Gillian Fletcher, an antenatal teacher for the National Childbirth Trust.

That's why men need to think hard about why they want to be at the birth, and what they need to know.

"I spend a lot of time talking about labour, what the body is meant to be doing and how it all works. I think the most important thing for men is to be well informed, because this helps stop the fear," said Gillian.

But it's not just down to the men. A woman must also think about her partner's needs - after all, it's the birth of his child too. And it's crucial couples talk openly.

"Speak with other people, read books and parenting magazines. If you're only just pregnant, you've got months to decide on what you want for the birth," she said.

If, in the end, the father doesn't want to be present, mum needs to be understanding. Likewise, an expectant mum must be able to say no to her man being at the birth. "Couples need to explore this together," Gillian added.

Many women find their partner a great emotional support - he can be her advocate, ask important questions and share decisions if birth plans have to change.

"Often dads tell me they don't know what they did, while women say they couldn't have done it without him," said Fletcher.

If dad isn't going to attend the birth, mum doesn't need to be on her own - often women ask a trusted friend or close relative to be there.

"That's fine too," said Gillian. "There might be a cultural expectation, but there are no rights and wrongs. If you are honest and open, you'll find a way that's best for you - and that's all that matters."

weblink: www.nctpregnancyandbabycare.com

Historians say that 4,000 years ago in Babylon a son called Elmesu carved a father's day message on a clay card. In his message Elmesu wished his father a long and healthy life. Nobody knows what happened to them but it is believed that several countries retained the custom of celebrating Father's Day.

While men are enjoying more quality time with their babies have they become equally as enthusiastic about the vacuum cleaner?

Not on the evidence - although The National Housework Survey of Great Britain 2006 indicates that women actually like to have control of the housework.

Six out of ten women say cleaning makes them feel in control of their life and 60pc say they find cleaning “mentally therapeutic”. British women spend an average of nine years, two months and 25 days of their adult waking lives cleaning and tidying - two hours, 23 minutes each day. That's giving the house nearly three times as much attention as she gives herself.

In East Anglia seven out of ten women saying that cleaning makes them feel more in control of their life. Women in East Anglia also spend the most on cleaning products (£11; UK average £9.70).

The five favourite cleaning jobs are vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen worktops, dusting, polishing and washing-up while the top five cleaning bugbears are dust, cleaning the oven, cleaning the loo, wet toilet seats/wee on the floor and keeping stainless steel smear free.

According to the women in this poll, the man's role is largely to mess it all up with 73pc of men accused of leaving their clothes lying around and 58pc rarely washing their own clothes.

But there is good news for East Anglian woman, as her partner is most likely to be a domestic god - 17pc of men in the region clean up more than she does. (UK average 10pc).

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