THE BLOG

Why Has It Taken This Long for Dads to Be Noticed?

27/01/2014 14:54 GMT | Updated 26/03/2014 09:59 GMT

"But what about Daddies? My DADDY picks me up from school" was something my six-year-old self questioned a lot back in Infant school.

I felt that my Daddy (who was obviously the best and better than all of the other ones and still is, naturally) deserved recognition amongst the pack of waiting Mothers outside the school gate: it was him who I needed to remind about the letter in my book bag, or that we needed to pay for the trip to the farm by Friday or that we needed to make costumes for the school play, not my Mummy.

It's not that I had the unimaginable misfortune of not having a Mum, she was there too: signing permission forms and listening to tales funny goats and crafting an alien explorer's headgear out of tinfoil and a bike helmet. But she was at work in the daytime, being a Marketing and Information Services Manager, and a damn good one at that. So, as an actor who would be touring or filming at times throughout the year; but home the rest of the time, it was up to Dad to do the whole school run thing.

And, despite being a tad precocious, six year old me had a point. Why didn't Dads get recognition at the school gate? Or for any form of stereotypical Mum jobs in the wider world?

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My Dad is better than your Dad

Then recently there has been a change, Dads are popping up everywhere: on our televisions, our computer screens and advertising our products. We see Tyrone bringing up baby Ruby on Coronation Street, Kordale and Kaleb-two black, gay Dads in America-have taken the internet by storm and two household names are using Dads to sell their products.

Both Kingsmill and Warburtons are using Dads to advertise their bread products, and the Dads aren't featured watching the footie, drinking beer and waiting for their wife to make them a sandwich. They're on their feet at the kitchen counter, making sandwiches for their kids or juggling a busy working day with making packed lunches.

According a web survey by insurance company Aviva, 18% of couples split childcare responsibilities evenly, with 6% of men now the primary carer of their child. Pushing the figure from 6,000 in 2000 to 600,000 in 2010. And in a less scientific survey done by myself sat in the window of my front room at 3:30pm, more and more Dads are at the school gates.

So it would make sense for companies to advertise to this new market, and realise that it might be fathers browsing the shelves for pack up supplies.

Because of the way my own family worked I never thought it was unusual for Dads to do jobs that usually Mums did. One of my childhood best friends was raised by a single father. They hosted a Halloween party every year, and her Dad prepared food, organised games and judged the best costume, and that was never strange to us. As we grew older my friend and her Dad had one of the closest parent/child relationships I have seen, and as we leave our teenage years he has met a new lady as his most important girl begins to lead her own independent life.

Of course, other than noticing that my teacher only ever referred to our "Mummies" when giving us instruction on what to do when the final bell went, six year old me didn't notice the underrepresentation of fathers in the media. Yet if you look at the advertising for household products and groceries they have haven't changed in decades, and one common feature is that a woman is nearly always the principle character.

It is estimated that 8% of Britain's single parent families are now Dad's bringing children up by themselves. One of this 8% lives with his little girl in Derbyshire, and juggles work with bringing up his toddler. His Facebook profile is full of pictures of the two of them together, and statuses about day trips. He's happy and she's happy in their little family set up, just like thousands of other single father households across the UK. But it has taken until 2014 for this type of family to be acknowledged by marketing bosses.

In an age of equality and political correctness it amazes me how long it has taken for advertising boffs to catch up with the fact that these days, Dads aren't the intimidating characters that go to work early and come home late before parking themselves in front of the TV wearing comedy slippers and drinking a beer. Of course some are like that but lots get involved with their kids, some are even left holding the baby, and that means that they're the ones nipping down the shop to pick up a loaf of bread.

So well done to Kingsmill and Warburtons, for taking the plunge in shunning the traditional housewife and mother character when advertising their products and finally recognising the other half of Team Parenting, the Dads.

Oh, and by the end of Year 2, my infant teacher was saying "When your Mummies OR Daddies pick you up." So a slight touch of precociousness in a six year old cannot be too frowned upon.