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Ten Need-To-Know Lessons For The Modern Dad

We speak to men about getting fatherhood right in the 21st century.
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Don’t worry about how other dads are doing it

Social media is great if you want to be in a dads-only WhatsApp group that has intense conversations about sandpaper and hedge trimmers. Not so good if you’re prone to looking at other people’s lives and wondering if you’re doing it all wrong. But don’t believe everything you see on Facebook.

Ditch the gender roles

It’s the 21st century. Everybody is busy and nobody really wants to hang another wash up. “Sharing duties and not reverting to stereotypical roles is all important,” says Dan when asked his secret to a happy home life.

But research by the Office of National Statistics found that women do 60% more domestic chores than men. Not only is pulling your weight the right thing to do, you’re much less likely to wake up to an empty house and a note on the kitchen table.

Another dad, Ash, says: “If you don’t take shared parental leave – which in hindsight I wish I had – you get used to your partner leading on childcare, it’s then a big adjustment to redress that balance when she goes back to work.”

Treat restaurants like a military operation

“Don’t order a starter or dessert. Get in and get out before all hell breaks loose,” says father-of-two Sam. And, obviously, choose your restaurants wisely. Anywhere that provides colouring sheets and a large outdoor space is preferable to a Michelin star.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

These are turbulent times - climate change, international trade wars - there’s enough big stuff to feel anxious about without worrying that one child won’t eat broccoli and the other hasn’t taken off their Spiderman outfit for five days. “There’s no point stressing over the little stuff. They’ll grow out of it. Everything’s just a phase,” counsels Sam.

Let them off the leash

Helicopter parents are buzzing around everywhere these days, preventing their kids from crossing paths with often imaginary dangers.

But a bit of freedom goes a long way. A little unsupervised roaming – in a safe environment not on an eight lane motorway – builds confidence and an independent spirit. US writer Lenore Skenazy came up with the term ‘free-range parenting’ and she let her nine-year-old son navigate his way home on the New York subway alone. That’s probably going a bit far but you get the gist.

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Beware an unattended device

Leaving your phone in the hands of a child is an accident waiting to happen. One colleague, whose child built a close relationship with her young nanny before she moved away, was surprised to find his daughter had messaged her “I miss you so so much” with three heart emojis, from his account. Awkward. Not to mention the potential for an epic Amazon binge.

iPads are not the enemy...

Screen time gets a bad press. But who suffers the most from a blanket ban? You, that’s who. Within reason it’s a life saver, often it’s the only downtime you’ll get all day. “Don’t use it as a punishment,” says David in London. “I once confiscated the iPad for a week and I’ve never regretted anything so much.”

...But your smartphone might be

Don’t get into the habit of ignoring kids because you would rather check the football scores or watch two strangers have a slanging match on Twitter. Fair enough, some of those slanging matches are brilliant, but according to psychologists that’s bad news for our children’s emotional development.

Accept you’re going to turn into your parents

Every generation must come to terms with this. “You’re going to be exactly like your parents, go on exactly the same type of holidays you said you never would, when you were in your hip and cool 20s,” says John in Bath. You’ll also shout “this is not a hotel” and “what’s the magic word?” on a regular basis.

Talk to other dads and friends

“When things get tough, talk to your friends about it. That’s what I’ve learnt recently. Sharing your worries really helps,” says Sam. Men are gradually getting better at opening up about how we’re feeling. So if the stress of parenting is getting you down, tell someone.

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