New Man fathers are a myth, slob dads are reality

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The Independent Online
MEN ARE continuing to shirk the responsibilities of parenthood, placing an increasing burden on women who are struggling to combine work with raising a family, according to new research.

A study of more than 1,000 first-time mothers found that the "Nineties Dad" does not exist for nearly eight out of ten women, who were more or less solely responsible for their children. Seventy-seven per cent of mothers said that they alone care for their baby at night, and less than one in four shared the responsibility with their partner.

"Many couples plan to share responsibility for their offspring but in reality things such as legislation, tax breaks, employment law and social attitudes are geared towards the woman bearing the load," said Dr Maureen Marks, a psychologist with a special interest in the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth.

Findings show that a century of progress in the fight for equality has added to women's responsibilities, as women may feel compelled to juggle the role of wife and mother with earning a living and enjoying a successful career.

The research, commissioned by Johnson & Johnson, found that, despite improvements in child-care facilities, working mothers were increasingly worried about balancing the demands of their employer and their child. Seven out of ten felt that it was no longer socially acceptable to want to stay at home and be a full-time mum. More than one in three felt it was embarrassing to admit to wanting to give up a career to be a mother.

"The `work' of a mother is becoming increasingly devalued in society," said Dr Marks. "It is being replaced by the often impossible ideal of the super-woman. They feel guilty leaving the office on time to collect their children and bad if they have to take their child to the doctor."

Nearly nine out of ten mothers felt they could not afford not to work. "Some women consider being a full-time mother to be a `luxury' they cannot afford," said Dr Marks. "This can result in feelings of inadequacy and frustration at not doing justice to either a paid job or the job of being a good mother."

Women neglected themselves and their partners in their efforts to live up to increasing demands. Less than half had done any exercise in the first three months of motherhood. Nearly two out of three missed having time with their partner and only one in threehad managed to make love during the same period.

Joy at their child's birth failed to offset the anxieties of one in four women who admitted they only began to enjoy their baby after about two months.

"We must be careful not to push the mum `performance bar' too high and make mums feel like failures", said Sarah Wrench, marketing manager for Johnson & Johnson. "Instead we should look for ways to help mums cope with the new demands they're faced with."