With the rise in stay at home dads reaching 229,000 in 2013, in contrast to 111,000 in 1993, gender roles have become questioned like never before.
Previously I talked about dads needing companionship in my interview with Billy McGranaghan, but here I map out my visit to the house of renowned UK dad blogger, John Adams, author of dadbloguk.com, who explained why it is important that dads have a say in the changing nature of parenting and family issues.
After many delays at East Croydon Station, I had to inform John by phone that the journey was going to take longer than planned. John answered and it was apparent that he was caught up in the school rush; he didn't seem too bothered that I was going to be 15mins late. Armed with a camera and tripod, I passed beautiful countryside on my way to his house in South Croydon, situated in scenic Surrey suburbs on the outskirts of London.
Upon entering the house, John politely, almost self-deprecatingly apologised for the mess, despite the fact that the mess was minimal and consigned to the conservatory.
Elizabeth, his youngest daughter was seated on the sofa, gazing at the TV. I made a suggestion that we conduct the interview outside, to allow more chance of light, as the room was darkened with the curtains closed. John warned me that she would try to venture out as well, and indeed his warning came true. I kept the recorder playing, capturing moments with his daughter, it seemed that little Elizabeth had a curiosity for the camera and equipment, distracting her doting dad in the process.
From the moment the interview began, John showed a stubborn refusal to give in to the nuclear stereotype, that fathers and mothers have fixed roles. Here was a man whose desire is to represent fatherhood and give a voice to a minority of men who feel undervalued or let down by a stereotype of how families should function.
John talked about what it is like to be a stay at home dad, but not in a way that suggested its difficulties, which culturally or socially you would expect, when the role is traditionally assigned to the woman. Instead, he embraced the notion of domestic fatherhood, claiming that:
"if men are engaged fathers from the earliest days, they tend to stay engaged."
John's primary concerns, centred on the summit of fatherhood, the visits to maternity wards, how budding dads are made to feel unwelcome by the assistant midwives and sonographers, who fail to acknowledge the dad when his baby is born. John described in his book A Modern Father... and Dad Blogger that maternity wards are a "predominantly female-focused environment", with the mothers influence at the core. In the interview he said:
"you would be hard pushed to find a dad who has had a particularly positive experience with a sonographer."In his book John also criticised the lack of male lavatories on the ward, and the discordant response men get from midwifery assistants when they ask for a tea or coffee.
Media and marketing organisations, he said, need to 'reinforce stereotypes that dads should be more involved in their children', invite dads to talk about family and parenting issues, instead of always looking at the mother's perspective. He encouraged companies to take a more gender neutral line when selling parenting products, for the packaging to be more inclusive of fathers and instigate a message that illustrates a mother/father connection with the child, instead of just a mother and child.
Overall, John's passion for blogging was evident, but it was the sense of a mission which made him determined to make things better for the father. I filmed John with little Elizabeth in the garden, who was very comfortable in front of the camera, the playtime all seemed very natural and it served as an example that dads can look after their kids, can bring themselves down to the level of their kids. As the day drew into the afternoon, I captured John reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to his daughter. Maybe John is like the caterpillar, waiting for an opportunity to fly and get his voice heard.