Father's Day: The changing face of fatherhood

From hands-off to hands-on, through the traumas of divorce and coming out, three generations of dads from two families talk to Joanna Moorhead about their very different experiences as a man's role in family life evolves

Hugh O'Kane, 77

Lives in Derry with his wife, Maeve

"We had 10 children, but ask me whether I've ever changed a nappy and the answer is probably not. Perhaps I did once or twice – it was a long time ago, they're aged between 33 and 49 now. But those days were very different: fathers weren't hands-on the way they are today, the way my grandson Seany is with his little boy. Maeve and I had our roles: she was the home-maker, I was the earner. And since I was a forklift truck driver, and it was seasonal work, that wasn't easy. There wasn't a lot of spare cash around, that was for sure.

"Because my work was seasonal I did have time to be with the children. I used to take them to the Gaelic football, and I've happy memories of many afternoons watching the game. The other thing we did was fishing in the local river. I'd take them out, lots of children and me, and we'd catch the most wonderful trout and salmon, then we'd come home and have a huge fry-up. They all loved that."

Sean O'Kane, 49

Also lives in Derry. He and his wife, Sharon, have four children aged between 32 and 17

"Sharon and I were married at 18, and the babies came soon after. I certainly wasn't at their births, though some dads I knew were doing that by then. I remember sitting there in the waiting room ... I just couldn't have handled being actually in the room.

"When the children were small I pitched in and did everything for them that Sharon would do. Work was hard to come by at the time – I'm a labourer – so there were periods when I was out of work and Sharon was working, and we were just grateful for the income. I certainly didn't mind being at home with the children – I really enjoyed it.

"One difference is that parenting is much more materialistic these days. My children had a Wendy House, and their bicycles, but that was it really: they had a few toys, and they made them last. Today's fathers seem to have bottomless pockets to buy endless possessions for their offspring: I'm really astonished at what children are given. Seany has a lot more money as a father than I did: I couldn't afford to take him travelling and to stay in hotels the way he does with Kuziva-Aodhan.

"Sharon and I were astonished when Seany told us he was going to be a father. He came over to see us, and he said he had something to show us ... scan pictures. Seany had told us he was gay, and I certainly wasn't expecting my first grandchild to come from him! We met Kuziva-Aodhan when he was a few months old. I'll never forget how I felt when I saw him for the first time. He's a beautiful child, and I just felt so proud of him – of both of them, really. My son and his son ... it was a very special moment. We had quite a party for the christening, I can tell you."

Seany O'Kane, 32

Lives in south London

"When I had my first homosexual relationship I was aware that this changed things. But rather than being sad about that, I realised there was a new way forward here, because, instead of having just two parents (and I'd seen plenty of children screwed up by two parents), I could have a child with three or four parents. I thought that could be quite wonderful. When I saw a TV programme about how gay people could co-parent, I went on the website and posted a message saying I was interested in the possibility. Within a few days, I'd had 600 responses.

"It was a bit overwhelming, but when I started reading through the replies I found one from an African lesbian couple. I've been to Africa, and I love African culture and music. I sent them an email, they emailed me back; we built up a relationship to the point where we knew we could do this, we could try to have a child together.

"We bought a home-insemination kit and gave it a try – and two weeks later Nikkita phoned to say she was pregnant. I was very involved, right from the start – and since Nikkita and her partner were by then living in Manchester, that meant long train journeys for antenatal appointments and scans. When Nikkita went into labour I raced up to Manchester. My son was born just moments before I arrived in the delivery ward.

"Holding him for the first time was odd: I found it really hard to connect with him. But I changed every nappy I could – and one day a few weeks later, I was there to see his first smile. I started to feel the connection with him, and from there on it just grew and grew.

"Nearly three years on, Kuziva-Aodhan is everything to me. I travel to Manchester every other weekend and bring him back. I read to him, we listen to music together; I take him to the park, cook his meals, love every minute we share. It's a very different relationship from the one I had with my father when I was a boy. I cuddle Kuziva-Aodhan all the time, and I'm always telling him how much I love him: my dad never told me he loved me, though now I'm an adult I can see that he loved me by looking after me, by going out to work and earning the money for our family. But he didn't express love in words, or by touch. Having said that, the turning point for me and my own father was when I told him I was gay: that was the moment when Dad did tell me he loved me, and that meant the world to me."

John Broughton, 78

Lives in Newbury, Berkshire. He and his wife, Sylvia, have three children aged 52, 49 and 41

"Sylvia and I were both 24 when our eldest son, Paul, was born: I was in the RAF at the time, but the pay didn't stretch to funding a family. I suppose, these days, what a couple would do in that situation is both work: but in those days we prided ourselves, us men, on being the breadwinners, and on our wives being able to stay at home. So I left the RAF and set up my own business.

"I worked very long hours when the children were young – I didn't see them as much as I might have done, and I do regret that now. I'd get home too late at night to see them, and leave too early in the morning to see them then: but we made a lot of the weekends. We'd drive down to the coast and we'd all sit there enjoying a picnic whatever the weather.

"Holidays were very important times, too: and as my business became successful, we could afford to go abroad. We took the children to Spain and Mallorca and the south of France: it was all about where we could all have a good time together, and those are very precious memories.

"When I see my grandson, Joel, with his twin babies, I can see that being a father has changed a lot – he takes on as many childcare duties as his wife does. And I know that Paul, when his children were younger, spent more time with them than I did with mine. But I think the important way things haven't changed is that we'd all do anything for our children – being a father is the most important thing to any of us, even though it's perhaps expressed in different ways in different generations."

Paul Broughton, 52

Has a son, Joel, 29, by his first marriage, and two children – Jasmine, 18, and 15-year-old Reece – by his second marriage, to Kim

"I married my first girlfriend, which was quite common in those days, but we split up when Joel was still very young and I moved back home. It meant I wasn't around to see as much of Joel as I'd have liked, especially when I moved to Leicester to work and he was still with his mum in Berkshire. I saw him every other weekend – I tried to do ordinary things with him, trips to the park and feeding the ducks, because I was very aware of the danger of giving him too many treats because his mum and I were divorced.

"When I married Kim and Jasmine and Reece came along, the lovely thing was being able to be with them all the time – it made me realise what I'd missed out on with Joel. I'd come in from work and they'd both come running to meet me, and then we'd read stories and be together all evening.

"These days, Jasmine is at university and only Reece is at home full-time, but older children have different expectations about their parents as providers these days. I remember getting my first pay packet and my mum sitting down and saying, 'well done – now let's talk about how much you're going to contribute to the running of the house'. I can't even imagine Jasmine's face if I said something similar to her! A father like me these days has to accept that he'll go on being a financial provider for some time to come."

Joel Cronogue, 29

He and his wife, Charlotte, live near Catterick in Yorkshire. They are the parents of twins Samuel and Sophia, nine months

"The first thing I remember my dad doing when he came home from work when I was a child was to pick up the toys and pitch in with what was involved with the children – so he was my role model and that's very much how I am, too. For me, having twin babies is a shared job for Charlotte and I – if anything, the fact that I work means I've got the lighter load, because it's easier to get out of the house and have a change of scene at work than it is for Charlotte to be at home with the babies all day.

"When I get home I check out what I can do – give them a bath, sort out the laundry, make up the bottles for the next day. I feel Charlotte will need a break, so rather than coming home and expecting time to myself, I come home expecting to get stuck in.

"When the children are older, though, our plan is for Charlotte to pick up her career again, so we'll both be earners and we'll both be looking after the children. To me, being a dad who's simply an economic provider isn't enough – I want to play an active role as my children grow up. I want to sit down on the couch with them when they're older and remember times we shared.

"I'm in the Army, and now the babies are here I've decided to change my shift pattern and my job so that I can be around more as the children are growing up.

"I'm also opting out of going to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, because I don't think it would be fair on Charlotte to leave her on her own with the babies.

"The Army is a very masculine environment, but the people I work with understand where I'm coming from. One of my bosses said he'd only been around for one of his daughter's 17 birthdays, and if he could turn back the clock he'd do things very differently. He said I shouldn't let anything stand in the way of organising my life so I can spend more time with my children – and that's very much my attitude, too."

Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Developer - Permanent - London - Up to £50k

    £45000 - £50000 Per Annum 23 days holiday plus Pension scheme: Clearwater Peop...

    IT Technician (1st/2nd line support) - Leatherhead, Surrey

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Technician (1st/2nd line support)...

    Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

    £85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

    KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

    £85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn