Men, your days as household gods are over

`There is now a gross imbalance between the sexes which is geared more than ever towards the punishment of women'

LET'S GET ready to play family fortunes, and let's have a look at what our survey said.

Our survey, or at least the Children's Society's, said that 100,000 children run away from home each year. Children who lived with their birth parents were three times less likely to run away, while almost half of all children in local authority care had gone missing overnight.

Our survey suggests that mummies and daddies are jolly good things.

Our survey, or actually this time, Mothercare's, said that bringing up children is demanding and exhausting, and that parents' offspring tended to show little appreciation. Nevertheless, nine out of 10 parents agreed that the hard work was "worth it".

Our survey suggests that mummies and daddies are nothing less than saintly creatures.

Our survey, this time conducted for us by US psychologists, said that the bond between babies and their working mothers is weaker than it would be if the mothers stayed at home. It's also weaker if the mother is poorly educated, depressed or has a difficult baby.

Our survey suggests that daddies are pretty much irrelevant.

Our survey, or the Institute of Personnel and Development's, said that many employers are not aware that mothers "may" have the legal right to work part-time after having a baby. Bosses can refuse, but they have to have "a good reason".

Our survey suggests that mummies are in a bit of a no-win situation.

Our survey, or the office of National Statistics's survey, says that cohabiting families are now fashionable among the affluent, while lone mothers have become increasingly less successful at finding work in the Nineties than mothers with partners.

Our survey suggests that one mummy's lifestyle statement is another mummy's poverty trap.

Our survey, or the GMB's survey, has found that women now outnumber men in the workplace in most parts of Scotland. More are becoming the family's sole breadwinner, and they are earning less and less in comparison to men.

Our survey suggests that Mummies are having it all, and that there isn't very much of it to have.

Our survey, or the Institute of Management's survey, has found that family life is damaged by the long hours executives are forced to work. Six in 10 said home life was as important to them as work, while three in 10 said it was more important. Fewer than one in six felt their employer was willing to help them balance their commitments.

Our survey suggests that stating the bleeding obvious doesn't help matters at all.

Our survey, or the quarterly LifeIndex survey, says that childless twentysomethings and older couples whose offspring have left home are the happiest people in Britain. Mothers with young children are the least happy.

Our survey suggests that the pursuit of happiness will inevitably result in human extinction.

Our survey, or the National Child Development survey, says that children do better if their mum looks after them until they are one, then goes back to work. If mum goes back to work "too early" reading skills suffer.

Our survey suggests that if your mother died in childbirth than you'll be far to illiterate to be reading this.

Our survey, or a survey by academics at Dundee and St Andrews Universities, finds that women in the workplace are treated worse than men and are less likely to be promoted.

Our survey explains why more women than men are now in employment in Scotland.

Our survey, or the results of the Government's Listening To Women initiative, finds that balancing work and family is the key issue facing them.

Our survey suggests that the Government is run by people who wouldn't recognise a chunky bit of wood with scraps of green gathered round the top of it unless it had the word "tree" affixed to it and their mothers hadn't done any work before they were one.

Our survey, or a survey by the Datcare Trust charity, finds that British parents pay the highest childcare costs in Europe, with little help from employers or government.

Our survey suggests that we should all move to Europe.

Our survey, or a survey by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found that most unmarried fathers have no idea what legal rights they may have over the upbringing of their children.

Our survey suggests that perhaps men might take a little more interest in fatherhood.

Our survey, from sociologists at the University of Maryland, finds that women still do more housework than men - 17-and-a-half hours a week to their partner's 10.

Our survey suggests that a single mother working from nine to five, taking an hour-and-a-half to travel to and from work each day while dropping off and picking up her children from daycare, keeping up with the housework and treating herself to eight hours sleep every night, has minus 13 hours left over to spend with her children.

My own survey, of surveys about parenthood and work conducted over the last three months, suggests that there is now a gross imbalance among the sexes in Britain which is geared more than ever towards the punishment and exploitation of women, who are regularly judged and found wanting at home and constantly underpaid and disrespected at work.

My other survey, about as scientific as many of those above, is based on chats with three fathers I know who have walked out on their partners and children and have all at some point during their conversations with me or with others referred to the time they spend alone with their children as "babysitting".

While all three are decent men in their many ways, each wants to spend time with his kids but seems unable to cease from resenting the fact that his erstwhile partner may in some way be benefitting from his actions. This is why all three call parenting "babysitting". They cannot stop seeing their role as fathers as simply supplementary to the role of the mother. Now that they've cut loose from the mothers of their children, they find it uncomfortable to remain a father to the children of the women they have rejected.

Many of their resentments in the various relationships had to do with this very issue - expecting gratitude for their "help" instead of accepting full responsibility themselves in the home and family. At the same time, in two out of the three cases, the men clearly felt frustration that their financial contribution was not treated with the unquestioning wonder that accrued to their fathers.

This may sound hard on men, many of whom are throwing themselves into fatherhood in a way never seen in previous generations. But it is not meant to be. Instead, what our surveys say is that while society still insists on focusing on the challenges of women and work and childcare, the balance now has to be between women and men, work and childcare.

Once the split was that fathers worked full-time and women worked not at all. While traditionalist groups use the impossibility of women's attempts to balance work and home to argue for a return to this model, a far better solution for everybody would be to share the burden of work as well as the burdens and joys of parenthood.

It is not a question of insisting on part-time work for women - along with its lower pay and scantier promotion prospects. Instead we should reject the ludicrous concept of the five-day working week, for women and for men. Employers will always wish to engage people to work as many hours as possible, for the cost of employing a person full or part-time is high.

But as we move towards the 24-hour society and away from the traditional weekend off, there is no reason why employers cannot make entire workforces of three- and four-day workers into seven- not five-day operations.

We all work too much, not just parents, and more time for us to spend with each other, instead of at work, will help us to forge strong relationships with our families, broken or not. But men must start joining with women in making this change, rather than sacrificing their children to petty resentment at the fact that their days as household gods are over.

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