I have just been passed a copy of the All Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood’s report called ‘The Father’s Journey: a survey of help-seeking behaviour by separating and recently separated fathers.’* Looking at the names of the people from the Fatherhood Insitute who have authored this report, I pretty much guessed the impact it would have on me, disappointingly, I also note that the report is co-authored by Families need Fathers.
I didn’t get much beyond the opening paragraph before my blood began to boil, the last lines reading
‘and it seems likely that when this population is not well supported or advised this will impact negatively on the financial and other support that they can provide to their children and their children’s mothers.’
In a nutshell then, this report continues to manufacture the idea that the role of the father is to provide for their children and their children’s mother. This kind of rhetoric is unsurprising coming from the Fatherhood Institute, long known for its ‘latte dad’ approach to worshipping at the altar of motherhood, but Families need Fathers? Come on boys, surely you know your membership better than that?
The report is based upon a survey of 295 fathers during 2011 and as such is not a hugely significant addition to the research field. Actually it reads more like a justification for more money from government than a serious, in depth look at help seeking behaviour. Purporting to examine the barriers to help seeking behaviour, the report goes on to simply reinforce them by suggesting that the major issue that government should be concerned about is men’s employment and the way in which this is affected by separation. Peppered with questions that it would not take a sixth former to work out the answer to, the report goes on to highlight the mysterious drop in working hours after a separation and ruminates upon whether this due to father’s trying to balance work commitments with parenting arrangements. And in one gobsmacking section on children, it references research that indicates that the quality of the father child relationship deteriorates before separation, appearing to intimate that fathers may be to blame for weaker relationship post separation. Whilst discussion is had about improvements in father/child relationships in some post separation families, it then goes on to query whether this is true, because stress is known to affect father/child relationships. They go on to say that it would have been useful to have the children’s views on this, the implication presumably being, so that the child can confirm that the father is not lying? Shame on you Fatherhood Institute and FNF too for even going near that suggestion.
I gave up the ghost on the rest of the report, too depressed was I to look at the rest of the details. I skipped to the conclusion with heavy heart and confirmed for myself the purpose of the report which calls for ‘new initiatives’ (with a good evaluation history), that’s a plea for some cash to buy in overseas parenting programmes to you and me and more ‘father inclusive practice’, that’s a direct effort to ensure that FI get more funding, to turn out more latte dads style training, so that men can emasculate themselves enough to please women.
Not a word about father care, not a word about equality of opportunity, about sharing care and provision, about how important fathers are in children’s lives. Just the same old same old, money and mothers and making sure men conform to gendered expectations. I expect it of the Fatherhood Institute, FNF you need to examine how reports such as these support the lived experience of the people you represent.
*The father’s Journey: a survey of help seeking behaviour by separating and recently separated fathers – Ross Jones, Adrienne Burgess and Vhasti Hale – April 2012 can be obtained from the FI website.