New fathers 'worry over juggling dual roles'

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The Independent Online

First-time fathers struggle to reconcile their role as "caring, sharing" parents fully involved in their child's upbringing with financial pressure to make the most of their careers, new research suggests.

Although the concept of the "new man" has enabled men to express their joy and enthusiasm on becoming fathers, they still worry about how they will combine their work and home responsibilities.

A study of 30 new fathers in the Norfolk area shows that men want to play a full part in caring for their babies and are aware that they need to keep their relationships with their partners secure.

But the research, published by the Economic and Social Research Council today, says they are torn between their desire to be a "good father" and their role as financial providers.

Dr Karen Henwood, of the School of Health Policy and Practice at the University of East Anglia, said: "They found it difficult to reconcile being both provider and supportive parent and home builder."

Her research was inspired by the interest in fatherhood and masculinity generated by the birth of Tony and Cherie Blair's baby, Leo, and celebrities such as David Beckham, who is regularly seen with his son, Brooklyn.

She said such high-profile births had "depicted a sense of joy and continuity in fatherhood and family life while raising questions about the changes taking place in contemporary families and the meaning of fatherhood and masculinity".

Dr Henwood, who interviewed the fathers before their children's births and twice in the first year of life, said men were no longer trapped by the "authoritative, moral leadership, breadwinning models of the 'good' father from the past".

Society had shifted in the 20th century so that equity and fairness were much more important to family life. "The cultural model of the new, involved father seemed to enable men to avoid any tendency to feel lost or confused about their role once the birth was over and during the transition to first- time fatherhood," she said.

But first-time fathers were still split between their loyalties to work and their desires for "full paternal participation", she said, and they wrestled with how to close the gap between their ideals and the reality of family life.