Three Reasons Why Father's Day Should Be Abolished

14/06/2017 10:03

Like dogs are not just for Christmas, dads are not just for Father's Day - and it's time we recognised that fact. Here are three reasons why Father's Day should be abolished.

1. Because dads need more time, not less, looking after their children

The first reason we should abolish Father's Day - a relatively recent import to the UK - is that it is based, like Mother's Day, on the idea of treating parents by giving them time off from the business of hands-on parenting. This is neither what fathers want, nor what their children (or the children's mothers) need.

Fathers want MORE time with their children, not less - and the evidence is unequivocal that dads spending more time actively and confidently parenting their children, is key to children fulfilling their potential.

Time-use studies suggest that mums and dads with dependent children spend roughly equal amounts of time on caregiving and earning combined. The problem for most couples is that circumstances beyond their control - including our continuing gender pay gap and one of the most unequal parenting leave systems in the world - push them towards 'traditional' parenting roles.

So mums end up 'in charge' of childcare and housework and, because the world of employment is set up to recognise and support this, women's careers are affected by a 'motherhood penalty'. Dads, on the other hand, end up doing longer working hours and commutes, risking less secure attachments to their children and a lifetime of being 'secondary parent'.

The last thing dads need, therefore, is LESS time being hands-on parents. If dads were given a day off work on Father's Day, it might be worth celebrating. So if you're an employer who wants to keep your workforce happy, let your dads go home early on Friday...or give them a day off on Monday. Otherwise, let's see Father's Day for what it is: a wasted opportunity.

2. Because it's an excuse for tokenism

The second reason we should consign Father's Day to history is that it allows everyone from retailers, the media and family service providers to ignore dads for 364 days of the year and then feel like they've 'ticked the dad box' by noting fathers' existence on a single day in June.

Advertising agencies have been waking up to the 'involved dad' phenomenon in recent years, with big-name brands from Air Asia to Dove, Heinz and Sainsbury's starting to put fathers centre stage - without needing Father's Day as a 'hook'. And a small but growing number of 'daddy bloggers' and dad-focused web platforms, both in the UK and the US, including The Dad Network and Fatherly, have emerged.

But much of the mainstream media remains resolutely traditional - running an annual Father's Day article but the rest of the time contributing lazily to a maternalist narrative by ignoring fathers' experiences and impacts; presenting childcare as a women's issue; and leaping on every possible opportunity to over-inflate 'innate' differences between the sexes.

The public sector, too, has been slow to reform. Few maternity and health visiting services, children's centres and schools make sustained effort to engage with and support dads. Social services routinely overlook fathers' potential, both as a risk and as a resource for their children. Services for separated families have been decimated, so there is very little support to help couples negotiate meaningful 'parenting time' for both parents. Not enough is done to keep children in touch with dads who are in prison.

Successive governments have failed to require services to improve on this, despite a mountain of evidence that children with confident, hands-on dads do better.

So if instead of holding one-off Father's Day celebrations, every school headteacher, children's centre manager, head of midwifery and health visiting lead spent the day building a database of dads, and inviting them in for a chat, that would be a good start towards putting things right.

3. Because it's a waste of money

Finally, the third reason for waving goodbye to Father's Day is that we've allowed it to get taken over by big business - one of several events (which also include Christmas, Mother's Day, Easter, Valentine's Day and Halloween) now used by retailers and service industries for 'tentpole marketing' throughout the year.

In the UK we spent an estimated £684 million on Father's Day in 2015. Just think of all the pointless presents children will give dads this weekend, pressured to do so by endless 'gift guides' in magazines, TV and sponsored social media campaigns.

Can our children's love for us really be measured by whether or not we received this year's must-have gadget on 18 June? If each family banned Father's Day presents and instead saved £30 per child per year for 18 years, that would give every young adult £540 to put towards university fees, driving lessons or a deposit on their first flat. Surely that would be a better use of our hard-earned cash than buying all those 'World's Best Dad' mugs, not-very-funny t-shirts and belly-boosting chocolates and bottles of wine?

The Fatherhood Institute works with government, policymakers, employers and family services, to create a society that supports involved fatherhood.

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