Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

I HAVE always liked Scotland. I have many Scottish friends and I seem to remember my first crush was on a Glasgow lass named Emily. She was dreamy but gave a few harsh lessons in how not to woo a young lady.

While they might be known for wearing their thistles around their wallets, it must be said that there is little that is thorny about the average Scot’s demeanour and a more outgoing bunch you will rarely meet.

They have an admirable number of innovators among their collective history too. The innovations and inventions of James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell and of course John Logie Baird (the television) have changed the world.

It’s no surprise therefore to see the Scots innovating again. Late last month, the Scottish Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, launched a new campaign in Edinburgh Zoo called The Year of the Father. The campaign is the brainchild of charity, Fathers Network Scotland, and it aims to highlight the positive contribution fathers make to children, families and society.

On the event’s website the group gives some interesting facts and stats.

It points out that 67% of Scottish fathers say that work stops them from spending time with their children while also claiming that the father works full time in 82% of households.

There are positives of course. Firstly, it would appear that fathers are evolving. The average dad now spends three hours a day looking after his kids as opposed to the 15 minutes the Scottish father spent in 1970. The site also says “children are more likely to be smarter, healthier and happier if their dads are positively involved”.

While acknowledging that fathers are more involved than ever, the charity want dads to spend even more time with their children and wants society to encourage it.

“Society hasn’t yet caught up with the striking cultural changes that have taken place in the home and workplace over the past 50 years,” it claims.

“The old stereotype of married breadwinner and disciplinarian no longer serves us in an age of increasing diversity and gender equality. It’s time to celebrate and support the key contribution fathers make to child development, family and community life.”

And so say all of us. Among my friends, my own circumstances are quite unique. On average, I see my children at least four-and-a-half hours a day. When tears are flowing, food is flying and toys are being fought over, I’m not always appreciative of how fortunate I am. And when the bills come in, I might not be able to swat them away as easily as some of my banker, lawyer, sole-breadwinner friends but I am happy I know pretty much everything about my boys. I am happy that come the weekend I’m not witnessing for the first time a milestone that was reached days before.

I’m lucky, but I believe you make your own luck. I have chosen the way I work and it has meant seeing more of my children.

Some fathers might complain that they don’t get paternity leave. They might complain that they only see their kids at the weekend but as my own father always says if you don’t ask you don’t get. So is it time for Irish dads to demand a bit more of a work-life balance or are they quite happy to fold their arms and wait for it to happen?

In Britain, fathers now get two weeks off to look after their newborns. In Ireland, though there are proposals to change it, we get zilch and there’s a part of me that believes it’s because we have never asked and I’ve yet to hear of a group (of dads) that is lobbying for it (but of course I hope I’m wrong).

Perhaps an Irish Year of the Dad, would help us focus.


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