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The role of a father: Active fatherhood, explained by dads

The role of a father has evolved a lot over the years. A few generations ago, the definition of being a good father was being a breadwinner – not a caregiver. This also meant that active fatherhood and caring for your kids, let alone taking paternity leave, was not viewed as a masculine trait or a definition of male success.

Now, gender roles are changing – but we still have a lot of work to do.

So, what does it mean to be a father today?

While many men becoming a dad are seizing the opportunity to care for their newborn, some dads don’t have the rights to take paternity leave. And others feel unable to take time off. This is because restrictive masculine stereotypes and societal pressures can still hold men back, which can lead to fewerdads taking and supporting paternity leave (even though our attitudes to the role of a father have changed from one generation to the next). 

So, what is fatherhood today? Here’s what eight dads learned from their fathers about the power of care – and our role in inspiring the evolution of fatherhood for the next generation.


Being a good father is about learning on the job

“There’s not a lot of teaching that goes on for this. The first feeding, the crying – you’re learning and making it up as you go along. There should be more time given for men just to enjoy this experience. It’s emotional. This is something that’s life changing.” – Mark, father of two


Support + lead the change

“Compared to my fathers’ day, we have a different work environment, with more equality for men and women. It's great to see and be part of this wave of change, and I couldn't promote this way of thinking enough.

“My dad was – and is – someone I look up to so much. If I can be half the dad he is, I’ll consider that a success.” – Paul, father of one


If you can take the time off, appreciate every moment

 “I’m very lucky compared to my dad. I have a very flexible working life, so I don’t have to worry. And if I want to spend time with my kids, I can just take a day or two off.” – Andy, father of three


Not every dad has the same opportunities

“My dad was away a lot when I was a kid. In his day, paternity leave didn’t exist. My dad was in the Merchant Navy and away from home when I arrived. He got to meet me four months after I was born – and then he went back to work. 

“His sense of humour is something I appreciated and have tried to emulate. He liked to be the silly, fun one. This might have backfired – I now get no respect at all from my six-year-old, while she jumps to attention for her mum.” – Johnny, father of two


Acknowledge the evolution of fatherhood

“I think when my father became a dad it was just starting to be culturally acceptable for a man to take time off.” – Jason, father of two


Enjoy the best part of being a dad

“My father wasn’t around when I was a child, so I make sure I attend as many performances, sporting events and school meetings as possible. I also offer support with homework. 

“But we always make sure we have at least one day a month for ‘boy time’, where we chat about work, school, worries and events. It’s really important and has allowed us to share a very special bond.” – Carnell, father of one


Being a great father is about friendship

“My parents are quite progressive, and because of our family circumstances when I was a child, my dad was able to take a lot of time off with me. 

“From him, I learned that being a father means being a friend, being supportive and making sure your children have lots of experiences to enjoy and shape their lives.” – Benji, dad of one


And that friendship lasts a lifetime

“You have to give your child every day. Listen to him. And go on in life together. The more time you give to your child, the more you will be able to pass onto him.” – Ari, father of one


How can I help more men enjoy the best part of being a dad?

We’re on a mission to make paternity leave the norm, so all dads, guardians and caregivers are empowered to experience fatherhood every step of the way – but we need your help. Sign the paternity pledge today to help make paternity leave a right for every dad.

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