`How new men are suffering daddy stress'

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The Independent Online
New man is suffering a new trauma, daddy stress.

Men may be spending more time with playing with their children, picking them up from school and looking after them when they are sick, but many are keeping their good parenting a secret from the boss and workmates.

While it's acceptable to be upfront about taking time off for running marathons, studying, going to funerals and being in the Territorial Army, admitting to picking up the children from school is still taboo, a national conference on Men as Fathers was told yesterday.

Instead of telling the truth, many men pretend they are meeting clients or going to conferences, or feeling ill, a pretence that is putting them under increasing stress.

"Men hide their involvement with children much more than women," said Adrienne Burgess, author of `Fatherhood Reclaimed' told delegates to the NSPCC conference.

"When they go to collect the children they will say they are going to a meeting, or a conference, or a site visit, and that kind of thing. When they have time off to look after the children they will say they themselves are ill rather than the kids.

"They are devising all sorts of strategies because they fear they will be seen as not being a real man and that it might affect their careers." She says some men will go to enormous lengths to conceal their involvement. "I interviewed one divorced man who had been picking his daughter up from school at 3.45pm every Wednesday for two years and not even his secretary knew."

Despite the strain of inventing excuses, men are spending much more time with their children, but worry that they are not, delegates to the conference in Cardiff were told. While working women worry about getting away on time to pick up the children, working fathers' principal worry is about whether they are getting enough time with the children. In the 1970s only 12 per cent of men had such worries compared to 74 per cent now.

But despite the increasing involvement of fathers with their children, one in five men are at least initially opposed to the pregnancy of their partner or wife. One contributing factor here, according to Ms Burgess, is that men are not educated early enough.

"From the beginning, from the ante natal services onwards, we need to involve the father. No-one interviews a man whose wife is pregnant, and there is no point at which men are drawn into the process. By bringing them in, you could deal with their fears and anxieties and identify any future problems," she said.

The aim of the NSPCC conference, the first of its kind, is to raise awareness about the cultural changes affecting men as fathers and partners.

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