We're millennial dads, we don't babysit our kids

Millennial dads are spending three times as much time with their children now than their counterparts did in the 60s, according to research which has recently resurfaced online.

And while a dad just being, you know, an actual dad, isn’t worthy of a medal (it’s time for the phrase ‘hands-on’ to go firmly in the bin) it is refreshing to hear that attitudes are continuing to change and that dads are stepping up.

And the internet has been quick to share their delight at the stats. One Instagram post has been liked more than 450k times, with one dad commenting, ‘wouldn’t have it any other way.’

The good news made us want to hear from dads about what they love about fatherhood.

We spoke to millennial fathers about how they see the role shifting from previous generations, and how no, they’re definitely not babysitting their kids – they’re just being parents.

Paul Bent, a dad-of-one, and author of HELLP! I’m going to be a dad!, says from the minute he found out his partner was pregnant he ‘really wanted to be a great father.’

The 39-year-old says the ‘amazing, scary’ prospect of having a child with his partner of six years, Lauren, made him think back to his own upbringing, and how he wanted to tackle fatherhood.

‘I was going to be a dad,’ he told Metro.co.uk, ‘And I had no male figure to mirror or manifest any positive feelings of what a dad is.’

Paul says he put ‘way too much pressure on [himself]’ when he learnt that Lauren was pregnant with their son, Hunter, now three.

He says: ‘I was so scared of my own son experiencing what I had to go through… those seminal moments when your friends’ dads are at the football, supporting their sons, and you don’t have anyone there… or waiting at the window when he says he’ll come to take me somewhere.

Paul says his childhood has shaped his own day-to-day parenting.

He says: ‘I purposefully never tell my son we have plans unless I am 100% sure I won’t have to cancel last minute.

‘I also overcompensate massively for what I didn’t get emotionally. I am always telling Hunter how much I love him. I provide emotional and physical stability, whilst boosting his confidence by using positive encouragement with active listening to promote good communication between us.’

And, he ensures they spend quality time together. He says: ‘Every Sunday morning we go to the park where we play, have long walks through the nature trail, followed by brownies and hot chocolates. We then head back home and cook brunch and Sunday dinner which is always a special time for me.

‘Hunter being mixed race, it is important that I teach him his Black Caribbean heritage so we often make classic Jamaican dishes fused with traditional British cuisine.

‘Whilst I see my son every day it’s fair to say Sunday is the day I most look forward to each week, its our special day of soul food and activities that nourishes and enrich our relationship. ‘

Dad-of-one Tom Finnie, 30, had a great relationship with his father growing up – in some ways, he’d like to emulate his dad’s parenting, while also trying to do things a little differently.

Tom, who is father to JJ, eight months, says: ‘My relationship with my dad has always been a positive one – chatting about every sport under the sun, along with numerous Top Gear references!

‘He was always a brilliant dad, especially in supporting my sporting life and coming to rugby and football matches.

‘The one thing that my dad valued very highly was that my siblings and I were friendly with everyone, showed courtesy and treated people how we expected to be treated. This example is very important to me now as I raise my own son.’

But Tom, who is tennis coach and founder of Tom’s Tennis Tots, adds that a difficult period in his life has also given him new priorities.

He says: ‘I lost my mum to motor neurone disease, in 2018. The period that has since followed has been very tricky. My dad and I find it hard to communicate very raw emotions.

‘However lots of people – other new dads, friends and family – have encouraged me to have honest conversations, which has made me more comfortable in talking about my feelings. Now, I feel confident in being able to lead by example in the future when JJ reaches out to me for emotional support – something that didn’t happen as often with me and my dad.’

And when it comes to his own experience of fatherhood so far, Tom says he and wife, Leah, are keen to keep things equal. He says: ‘A concept that Leah and I try to live by is balance. We make a point of trying not to ‘points score’ – we decided that this would cause friction between us when we simply need to be a team.

‘There will always be times where both mum and dad feel like they need a break from their baby. No-one is perfect, but I think it’s important dads strive to set an example for their children and for themselves.’

Dad-of-three Josh Jamieson, 32, also learnt lessons from his own upbringing – he was keen to break down the gendered stereotypes that had been present in his own childhood.

Josh, who has three daughters, Margot, 6, Remy, 4 and Juniper, 1, explains: ‘I had (and have) a good relationship with my dad. We have a similar sense of humour and so get on really well. He was definitely always present and supported me.

‘However, he and my mum conformed to very typical gender roles with my mum doing all the cooking and housework (even when she had a full time job), while my dad fit into the “fun dad” stereotype, which is something I am desperate to avoid.

‘Firstly, because I really want to show my kids that parenting is a completely joint effort and that both mum and dad are happier when the responsibilities are shared. And secondly, because I really believe these stereotypes feed into creating unequal opportunities for men and women and I really want my kids to know they can be whatever they want to when they grow up, regardless of gender.’

In terms of childcare, it was Josh that decided to work part-time, while his wife, Sophie, works full time.

He says: ‘I had honestly never even considered being part-time as I had never met a single man who was, but my wife suggested it and it was like a lightbulb moment for me.

‘My wife enjoys work much more than me and we had pretty much the same incomes, so it made perfect sense. It has been so incredible getting to spend the extra time with the girls and it definitely helped me bond with them when they were tiny.’

Josh says he had mixed reactions to going part time. ‘My dad was not super supportive. He often made comments about whether we’ll have enough money in the future – funnily enough, he didn’t seem to think there would have been a problem with my wife working part time, even though she has always had a really similar income.

‘Also, I did have a lot of people in the work environment who were very curious about why I was part-time, and what I did with my days off – which I never really saw being asked so much of my female colleagues who were part time.’

Josh says his favourite thing about being a dad is watching his kids grow and change every day. He says: ‘They are all so different and it’s so nice to see them develop and try to figure out what kind of person they want to be.’

And when it comes to the idea of ‘hands-on’ dads, or fathers ‘babysitting’ their kids, Josh says we need to do away with these outdated terms.

‘It’s really damaging,’ he says. ‘It both belittles dads who are caring and work hard to parent their children, and reinforces the stereotype that dads are not really “proper’ parents”, so don’t need to take an equal share of responsibilities.’

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