The number of stay-at-home fathers in Britain is set to soar over the next five years following an “unprecedented” role-reversal triggered by the coronavirus pandemic that will see more mums than ever before become the main breadwinner, new research reveals.
Eight-in-10 men who became first-time fathers in the last 12 months plan to sacrifice their own careers, regardless of income or job title, to spend more time with their children.
The bonds they forged with their newborns during repeated lockdowns are so strong that 80 per cent of new dads hope to remain at home permanently until their kids start nursery school.
Babysitting, cleaning, food shopping and even nappy duty are no longer avoided but “willingly embraced” by the new generation of so-called ‘superdads’.
Unlike previous generations of fathers, who saw themselves chiefly as ‘protectors and providers’, the overwhelming majority of modern dads say a hands-on parenting role is more rewarding—and substantially more important—than a salaried job.
This positive appreciation for the fatherly role is attributed to what researchers call the “Covid connection”—an unusually strong attachment that fathers were able to develop with their newborns during the coronavirus outbreak.
Until early last year, most fathers spent only one or two weeks with their newborns on paternity leave before going back to work.
But when non-essential contact was stopped in March 2020 and people were forced to stay and work from home, men “grabbed the opportunity to get stuck in”.
The relationships that were built during this time were so special that just 20 per cent of men who had their first baby during the coronavirus outbreak say their career is more important than fatherhood.
It is an “epiphany moment” that could restore parenting equality and change the face of working Britain for the next five to 10 years, according to researchers at Daddilife.com.
The parenting website, which is one of the UK’s leading online destination for modern-day dads, interviewed over 4,000 British, American and Australian men between 2018 and 2021. for its new book You’re Going to Be A Dad! The New Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy and the First Year of Fatherhood [LINK TO https://www.amazon.co.uk/Youre-Going-Dad-Pregnancy-Fatherhood/dp/B09GJKQTQN/], which hits the shelves this week.
Of those men it interviewed during the coronavirus pandemic—whose first babies were born or due between March 2020 and April 2021—four out of five said they would choose fatherhood over career if given the choice.
DaddiLife founder and lead author Han-Son Lee, himself a father-of-one, (all-corr) said: “The coronavirus outbreak, for all its untold sadness and horror, has without doubt spawned a new generation of superdads—men who are not only happy and willing to share childcare and household chores but who are embracing it at the cost of their own careers.
“Being isolated from friends, family and work colleagues forced many new dads to adopt a true hands-on approach to parenthood because, quite literally, they grabbed the opportunity to get stuck in.
“The results of our research suggest that the bonds made between father and baby during this time— the ‘Covid connection’, if you like—were unquestionably powerful and led to many fathers questioning their role in the family unit.
“Rather than return to work, most wanted to remain at home indefinitely. Doing so would enable their female partners to start or restart their careers should they so wish.”
Lee, 37, who lives in London, is a former marketing director and the father to six-year-old son, Max.
He launched Daddilife.com in 2016 to create an online space to celebrate modern-day fatherhood and share ‘dad-centric’ information and advice.
It has since grown into a thriving community of more than 150,000 fathers and fathers-to-be.
“On the presumption that those new fathers we interviewed do as they intended, Britain’s number of stay-at-home dads will skyrocket over coming years as part of this unprecedented reversal of family roles,” Lee added.
“In turn, it is probable that we will see more mums than ever before becoming the main breadwinner and, with luck, more women in the most senior boardroom roles as the glass ceiling is finally shattered.
“Of course, not all mums and dads will be planning to swap roles, and for other couples finances may dictate that some dads will have to continue working to support the family through necessity rather than choice.
“But one thing is absolutely certain: the pandemic has brought greater equality to parenting across the board, which will only benefit families.”
Han-Son and four colleagues interviewed 4000 first-time fathers in Britain, 30 in Australia, and 50 in the United States over a three-year period as part of a wider research project into modern parenting and how fathers-to-be really feel.
Until early 2021, the results of the ongoing study—which comprised more than 400 hours of phone calls and Zoom conversations—showed that new fathers were more willing than ever before to share childcare and household chores more evenly.
The majority, however, indicated that they intended to return to work when their paternity leave ended.
But when the UK entered its first lockdown in March last year, the responses changed dramatically.
Eight-in-10 men that DaddiLife interviewed, whose babies were born between March 2020 and April 2021, said the time they had spent with their children had been so precious that they wanted to retain a more hands-on approach to parenting until nursery school age.
They indicated that they either planned to quit work and become stay-at-home dads “at some point soon” or said they would do so if given the choice.
The same number said they would support their partner’s decision to return to work or enter employment for the first time.
This new breed of ‘superdad’ are a far cry from previous generations of fathers, who commonly had little or no involvement in their children’s’ day-to-day care.
Han-Son said: “The coronavirus pandemic changed how many men felt about their own lives and those of their partners.
“We didn’t speak to a single father who in the first few weeks didn’t go 50-50 on night-time bottle feeding, nappy changing, and on virtually every other aspect of parenthood and household management.
“That may not sound like much but let us not forget that those tasks were—as a matter of statistical fact—largely left to women for generations and generations.”
Of the men who wanted to remain stay-at-home dads, most said they would support their partner’s decision to become the main breadwinner.
Lee believes that the pandemic has accelerated the demise of the ‘Three Ps of Traditional Manhood’—the antiquated view that men must protect, procreate and provide—by changing how masculinity and fatherhood is perceived.
He added: “Modern men, post-Covid, recognise that parenting is a joint venture in every sense of the word.
“All they want is the guidance and insights that will best equip them for that role.”
You’re Going to Be A Dad! The New Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy and the First Year of Fatherhood is out now, available from Amazon priced £11.99 in paperback and £8.99 as an eBook. For more information, visit www.daddilife.com.