NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

September 26, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

From this article, it’s easy to see that James Millar is a sincere on the issues of paternal involvement in childcare (Huffington Post, 9/14/18).  But there’s so, so much he just doesn’t grasp.

Millar understands that pop culture militates against respect for fathers.

However the patriarch of the [Peppa Pig] family is a buffoon and it’s this that bothers me. Because Daddy Pig is not alone.
Think of dads on TV and the chances are he’s fun, active and inept.
Homer Simpson is surely the most famous father on the planet. And yet he’s also probably the worst example of a dad.

Very true.  Fathers are very often denigrated by various aspects of our culture.

And Millar gets it that fathers, mothers and children all benefit from fathers’ greater involvement in childcare.  Active, involved fathers tend to be happier and better adjusted than other dads, mothers are freed to work, earn and save more and kids benefit in countless ways from their father’s day-to-day attention.

And, unlike so many pundits on the subject, Millar understands that what people say they value and what they do often don’t coincide.

Polling data shows a witheringly small number of people think mum should do most of the parenting. Most folk think it should be shared. A growing number of men, particularly among millennials, yearn for a better work life balance and are keen to trade a higher salary for more time with their family.
Yet in the vast majority of households  it’s the woman that takes on most of the childcare, and all the other domestic tasks, and the man goes out to work full time and brings in the lions share of the income.

That’s all jolly good, but when Millar announces that,

Luckily myself and my co-author David Freed are solutions guys. We know how to close the gap and present in Dads Don’t Babysit a manifesto for a more engaged fatherhood and roadmap of how to get there.

he careens off the rails.

Somehow, Millar’s convinced himself that, really, the solution to all this is simple.  Hey, he and his co-author dreamed up the “solution,” so how hard could it really be?  It seems never to have occurred to them that, in his native UK and across the English-speaking world, people have been struggling for decades to get respect for fathers and fatherhood and have met mostly with hostility and ridicule.

What’s Millar’s “solution?”  More parental leave for fathers and men taking the bull by the horns to “act, talk and agitate.”  Millar knows that fathers take only a small part of the meagre leave they’re given, but has come to believe that, well, they should simply behave differently.  Doubtless, James, once they’ve read your book, they will.

As to “act, talk, agitate,” I’ll deal with the last.

When women fought for the vote a century ago they had to struggle just to be heard and in the struggles since that’s not changed. Men have no such worries. That’s not fair but it’s how it is.
Male voices get listened to in the corridors of power.
It’s time to speak up for equal parenting, and a more equal world.

Oh, do “male voices get listened to in the corridors of power?”  They do, just not about this subject.  In the first place, support for equal parenting isn’t a male/female issue.  This movement has as many female supporters as male ones.  That’s because neither sex has a monopoly on realizing and supporting the right, constructive thing.

Millar’s assumption that no one has yet raised the issue of equal parenting in “the corridors of power” shows how little he knows about his subject.  We’ve been lobbying legislatures for decades and are beginning to have some successes, but it’s been a long, hard slog.

It has been for reasons of which Millar has no concept.  The first is that there is a strong anti-father bias abroad in the land.  Why does he think all those pop culture portrayals of fathers exist?  Like it or not, there are plenty of people who want us to believe that fathers are per se dangerous to children.  Domestic violence organizations have been making the claim since the 70s and routinely oppose any improvement in dads’ legal status.

Does he know about studies indicating strong anti-father/pro-mother bias on the part of judges?  Has he read Roisin O’Shea’s study of judicial attitudes and practices in Ireland?  I wrote about that herehere and here.  What about Maebh Harding’s review of family courts in England?

Then there’s human biology to consider.  The idea that mothers would, as a general rule, prefer to share childcare equally with fathers is simply untrue and the reason is that women are biologically pre-disposed to the primary caregiver role.  Fathers, for their part, are biologically pre-disposed to the secondary caregiver role and the primary provider role.  Unsurprisingly, that’s how most people sort out the work-life balance once the first child comes along.

What about maternal gatekeeping?  Has Millar ever heard of mothers who purposefully marginalize fathers in their children’s lives?

How about courts?  Does Millar understand that family courts routinely give Dad the short end of the parenting time stick when Mom divorces him?

He does not.  The result being that, however well-intentioned he may be, Miller is simply too ill-informed to be writing on the subject he’s chosen.

If the answer to dads’ second-class citizenship in family courts, the news media and popular culture were as simple as Millar makes out, we’d have solved this long ago.  But entrenched interests are ever-ready to thwart the legitimate interests of children, fathers, mothers and society generally.  We’ve known this for a long time.  Amazingly, Millar doesn’t know it yet.

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