Sunday, 25 September 2011

Dr Dawn Harper Needs You!

The subject of stay-at-home dads is close to my heart as you'd expect. So when Dr Dawn Harper offered to write a guest post on the subject I was only too keen to accept. Dr Dawn is a family general practitioner in Gloucestershire where she also runs specialist clinics focusing on women’s health, weight management and preventative medicine.

She co-presents Channel 4’s 4.2 million viewer show ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ and the BAFTA award winning web site. She is also a regular specialist guest on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ and has a weekly column in ‘NOW’ Magazine. She writes...


There’s no denying it, the role a male figure plays in the care, upbringing and development of a child has never been better understood. The number of father figures that opt to play a significant part in the day to day raising of children is, thankfully, growing every day. We also see the number of stay-at-home dads continuing to increase, like my good host Tim, which is really great to see. But what are the implications for children raised predominantly by a father figure?

Obviously a good parent is a good parent, and men and women are equally capable of being both of those things, but there are some definite advantages to having a prominent father figure in a child’s everyday life, right from the start.

The social stigma around giving up work to raise a family - which applies almost exclusively to men - is fading away, and there are many more dads in evidence at playgroups and schools, dropping off and picking up in between running the family home.

The importance of a male role model in early child development:

I’m generalizing here I know and there will of course be lots of examples of parenting that don’t fall into this pigeon hole but it is often the case that fathers are better at discipline. Some of this will be that in the conventional family of a Mum that stays at home and a Dad that is out to work, it is down to practicalities but some of it will also be based on fundamental differences between men and women.

Having three kids of my own I know that there are times when I have lots of energy for them and others when I don’t. My husband and I certainly manage them differently and I think they benefit from having a male and a female role model.

It is easier to share the load of raising children, whether it is a stay-at-home dad with the input of a working mother or vice-versa. From the practicalities of homework to dealing with children’s anxieties, it is only natural that there are certain circumstances that male role models will find easier to deal with, and others where a female will be more comfortable.

The rise of the stay-at-home dad: 

Although once a rare phenomena, the number of stay-at-home dads that I see coming into my surgery is increasing at a significant rate. Some of the more recent statistics I remember seeing (from insurance firm Aviva I think) suggested that the number of stay-at-home dads had risen from about 60,000 in 2000, to more than 600,000 in 2010.

Resources for stay at home dads: 

However, if there is one area that I think a stay-at home dad is slightly disadvantaged, then it is in the amount of support available.

Mothers are absolutely spoilt for choice by the number of books, and online support groups that are available to them, and it’s taken a while for material of a similar quality to become widespread. 
There are now some great books available to stay-at-home dads, and my good host Tim’s book ‘Fatherhood: The Essential Guide’ is one of several that I really recommend.

Also, communities such as homedad.org.uk continue to grow in popularity. The internet is great resource for anyone who is based at home to offer support and prevent feelings of isolation. While resources such as HomeDad still have a fair way to go before they can match the size and power of behemoths like Mumsnet and Netmums, it’s great to see that resources like these exist, and are becoming more popular.

But there is still room for plenty more as the stigma associated with stay-at-home dads rightfully dissipates. So come on all you stay-at-home dads – get writing, blogging and sharing. There may well be more of you than you might think!




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