Sunday 21 June 2015

5 ways for Dads to spend quality time with their kids

Happy Fathers Day all. I have today at the request of Mothercare handed my blog over to my lovely husband. He's only guest posted here once before in the seven years this blog has been live so I'm feeling very honoured.

1.    Find a shared interest
For the last ten years I've been a Cub leader and for many of those my son JJ has joined me to camp and then attended Beavers, Cubs and now Scouts. This has led to a shared love of outdoor scouting pursuits such as hiking, wide games and camping. Recently my daughters have joined Cubs and it makes such a difference to my motivation when I see them all excited on a Tuesday night.
2. Make the most of times when Mum is away
A few times a year my wife goes away, either with her Mum/ friends or to blogging conferences/ trips and this is always a time the kids and I look forward to, not that we do not love to have her here but it is something special. My daughters take it in turns to either fill Michelle's space in our bed or to have a sleepover in the lounge, there is always much anticipation of the takeaway pizza, popcorn and snacks that will fill our movie night when Mum is away.

When Michelle is away for longer I try to take the children out for memorable activities, not necessarily expensive ones just things we do not normally do on school days. Paddling in the stream, picnicking on a cliff or cycling along the sea front have all been features before.

3. Get involved with everyday parenting
It should go without saying but I think too many Dads leave all the day to day parenting to their wives. I like to be involved with homework, bath time, bed time stories and shared dinners. It's also important to my kids that I try and make it to their assemblies, school meetings and sports days. Of course work does not allow me to be at every one as they may clash with meetings but if I can be there I will, that small amount of effort on my part makes a huge difference to our relationship.

Mothercare recently commissioned some research into the role of dads and it appears that UK dads are longing to spend more time with their children. If given the choice 55% of UK dads would take on the 'stay at home role' and certainly offered when JJ was born but Michelle went back to work part-time and we balanced it that way. It was always a joint effort though with me picking JJ up from nursery on days Michelle had University and we spent each Saturday together as she studied. Then once the twins were born and again Michelle went back to work part-time, I then had every Tuesday off to care for them and worked on a Saturday too. I personally think there are often solutions but not every dad is willing to look for them.

The research threw up some interesting findings and here are a few key facts and figures -
  • More than two thirds (65%) of dads say that inflexible working hours interfere with their parenting duties 
  • UK mums take charge of the early morning routine, with less than a quarter (23%) of dads doing the school run 
  • Mums still rule the roost when it comes to discipline, with less than one quarter (23%) of dads taking on the key disciplinary role in the household
  • Just under a half (45%) of all surveyed dads are responsible for cooking and a further 32% taking on the majority of feeding the children. 
  • The modern day dad is also interested in their little ones’ wardrobes as 50% claim to be the final decision maker when purchasing their childrens’ clothes.

4. Take an interest in your child's hobbies
It goes without saying that you are not going to love everything your child loves. Take JJ for instance he loves to play Minecraft and I have no interest in this but I'll listen to him tell me about his latest creation as it is important to him. There are also games we both enjoy playing and he is now at an age when his skill level matches mine so I can learn from him as much as he can learn from me.

Again many of the things that my daughters enjoy are not pursuits I'd naturally be involved with, like gymnastics and swimming but I make sure that I periodically attend their club with them so they know I have an interest and you can also find me doing activities like craft sometimes as that is what they want me to be involved with that day.

5. Plan one on one time with each child
It's not that often that I get to spend a long period of time with just one of the children so it is important to make the most of all opportunities. Each Thursday I take my son to Scouts and the journey there and back is an opportunity for us to catch up and chat about what is going on in his life. It is harder with my daughters as being twins it is often assumed they will do things together but I do try to plan in time every couple of months with just one of them. Whether it is a walk round the lake together, a trip to the shops or the beach and a museum it doesn't matter it is just important to spend that time together to stay connected.

Being a Dad is a job I really enjoy and in an ideal world I'd spend even more time with my children but for now I have a good balance that was enabled through relocation and a job change a couple of years back. It ensured I could be home with them far more and have the freedom to attend school events and to pick them up on occasion. I'd say if you are considering moving jobs but you are worried about the salary drop, as long as you can realistically manage it, it is worth giving up the luxury aspects to be really available to your children.

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