Stay-at-home dads will help close pay gap

Growing up in the not-so-distant past, I was subjected to countless half threats, none more so than '˜mother knows best' and '˜wait until your father gets home'.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 31st August 2016, 8:09 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st August 2016, 10:16 am

These, I should imagine, formed part of the soundtrack to the formative years of millions of Brits of a similar age and the sentiment still applies today.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The principal caregiver doesn’t always have to be mum while dad needs not be the one who is seldom around to experience daylight at home. That dynamic is as outdated as it is unhealthy but is largely the reason why the gender pay gap remains a vast one.

The Government could do more, we are told, to help, including by legislating to bring down the cost of childcare, as well as ensuring companies are sticking to the requirement to offer work/life balance to all employees.

But at the heart of this issue lies society’s attitudes to parenting and the accepted wisdom that mums are the only ones to be trusted when it comes to rearing young human beings. Slowly, this outdated view is being chipped away by men who have taken on the mantle of homemaker while their partners continue to develop their careers.

This is something I have played at during the past four months, having been lucky enough to join the tiny band of dads who have taken up the newly-introduced shared parental leave, which allows both parents to split what is still traditionally known as maternity leave.

In our case, it was, financially speaking, the most sensible decision to make and my wife returned to the office in May.

The past 15 weeks have been nothing short of life-changing, allowing me to forge an even deeper bond than I already had with my baby boy.

What has struck me most is the attitude of others. My explanation as to why I have been without a shirt and tie has provoked some bemusement. Society will get only used to stay-at-home dads if the Government does more to encourage firms to offer dads more than the statutory £140 per week wage for parental leave. Only when more dads feel able to ask their bosses for flexible working will women be able to begin to close the pay gap.