When will there be a film called ‘I Don’t Know How He Does It’ ?
Fiona McAllister writes:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’ll have noted that Hollywood blockbuster ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ is in town, garnering endless coverage as TV and newspaper reviewers queue up to pick apart (but largely agree with) its portrayal of the modern working mum.
Which led us to wonder, when might we be treated to ‘I Don’t Know How He Does It’, a warm, sympathetic yet hilarious rendering of the challenges of being a modern working dad?
The boring consumerist answer to this question is: when part-time working men and non-employed dads become a sufficiently significant niche market that they are worth film companies entertaining. And when employed men are seen as working dads, rather than breadwinners with children elsewhere (on that note, do please ‘like’ our Facebook page www.facebook.com/workingdads).
Until then all you’re going to get is the klutzy romcom, where newly single dad drowns in his own domestic incompetence until cute single mum realises that he just needs a bit of help…Various slapstick involving overflowing sinks, cross-dressing children and food poisoning, culminates in the two lone parents realising that they really love each other, and they move into a blended home with their tribe of children and a mischievous dog. At which point she realises that her dream has always been to start a fabric stencilling company in the attic (fits so well with the school hours) while his patented invention goes global – so he’ll be away a lot, secure in the knowledge that his and her kids are safe at home in their kooky menagerie watched over by creative mum…
Talking more scientifically, we need to know more about the experiences of flexibly working men and full-time fathers. We don’t really know what the average stay-at-home dad looks like. Wouldn’t it be great to compare how fathers and mothers who are not employed actually use their time and to see how (if at all) they differ? Plus we still don’t know very much about how employed fathers make work-life choices. Is it simply economics?
The exciting cultural answer is that the evidence indicates that there are growing instances of the working dad, for whom fatherhood is as important as career; and of the stay-at-home dad.
But there remains a hurdle: how come full-time fathers are usually described as ‘stay-at-home’ while full-time mothers can still be referred to as ‘housewives’? The man’s description implies that he has chosen his lifestyle; the woman’s that she is her husband’s dependent. So until we have househusbands and stay-at-home mothers – or even better when the term ‘parent’ doesn’t mean woman – the movie will have to wait.
Meanwhile the best first step is to sort out flexible working and parental leave so that it is equally available (and comparably paid) for working parents of both sexes. That’s something lots of us want (read our recent poll and submission to the Government’s Modern Workplaces consultation here), but unlike in Hollywood, we don’t always get what we want…Tags: Flexible working, For fathers, Maternity leave, Parental leave, Paternity leave, Work-life balance, Working dads