Dadswork the East Lothian charity dedicated to supporting the needs of  Dads as parents has been involved in the development of a national organisation of ‘Fathers’ organisations

Organisations and individual can sign up at this link  www.fathersnetwork.org.uk/index.php?home

The role of Dads  has been receiving a higher profile lately.

I am part way through reading Carol Craig’s book ‘The tears that made the Clyde’,  which makes a powerful case for how Scottish male culture impacts on health and social outcomes in Scotland. She argues that this macho male culture  developed partly as a result of men abandoning family life because of desperately poor housing and overcrowding during the industrialisation of Scotland. She goes on to argue that many of the social ills which have proved so resistant to change in Scotland are fed and nurtured by that culture.

 Similar arguments abut male culture and the need to change it are made by supporters of the white ribbon campaign in relation to Domestic Violence –  that it is a problem all men need to own if it is going to change.

At a presentation I attended this morning on ‘attachment theory & practise’ by an Educational Psychologist and researcher –  Penny Rackett,  the importance of dads in supporting children to have secure attachments in early life was stressed. She reported on studies which showed that Dads who felt that their contribution to rearing children had been valued were also the dads that were most attuned to the communication of their babies / children. So involving Dads is important.

Although most children still live in a home with two adults, it seems from statistics that increasing numbers of  Scottish women are raising children without the involvement of a ‘live in father’.  It also seems that lone parenting is a more prevalent experience for Scottish women than other European women. Why is that happening and what does it say about Scottish men and their attitudes to family life? Are men not coping with the kind of  stress involved in raising children and choosing to escape from it. Do men feel that they don’t have any real role in raising children now that their traditional role of breadwinner has faded? What is the role of a father in Scottish culture?

Big questions – and ones that  need to be part of a national discussion and debate. Perhaps what Dadswork have helped to start will be the start of a discussion between fathers of what it means to be a father in 21st century Scotland and how that role can be supported and valued.

Changing culture is very difficult – and I am sure can only start when lots of people ask the similiar question and talk to each other about the implications of those questions.

I am a father – its a role for which I had no preperation  beyond my own experience of parenting. Prior to becoming a parent I don’t think I ever discuseed what a dad is meant to do with anybody. For our first child I did attend the ante natal classes that were on offer, but like many men felt like a spare part. It may well have changed now but twenty years ago it was all about the mechanics of birth – lots of heavy breathing and discussion of pain control options.

I don’t recall my father ever talking to me about what it meant to be a dad. However, I have no doubt that his parenting style has heavily influenced me (for good and bad) because I occasionally catch myself saying things that make me think, ‘God I sound like my old man’.  In writing this I have asked myself the question – Do I know how to talk to my own sons about what it means to be a father? The answer is probably no,  at least not in any coherent way.  Having asked the question I am going to think about it – because I have a sense that Dads are important and that men ought to value  and celebrate the role of father.  In fact I am going to do more than think about it I am going to talk about it, with my wife! Well,  perhaps I will try talking to some of my male friends who are fathers. They may well think I have lost the plot but it will make a change from fishing and shooting. And who knows if enough Dads in Scotland talk to each other about what it means to be a Dad and how you can be good enough at it, maybe the next generation of Dads will have a better steer than the last.

Steven Wray