E Jane Dickson: Staying Afloat

'We all know fathers have rights. Will they claim their responsibilities with equal sound and fury?'

Share
Related Topics

There is a vaguely Masonic feel to our Father's Day celebrations. On Sunday afternoon, Clara and Conor and I troop round to daddy's house where gifts are duly presented. From Clara there is a cake, baked, decorated and boxed with infinite care and a barbecue apron customised with the word "Dad" spelled out shakily in sequins and glitter. From Con, there is a no less gorgeously customised balloon that makes farty noises. Daddy dons the ceremonial apron (airily dismissing the design fault of a pinny that can never be washed), lets off the balloon and pronounces the gifts to be works of staggering beauty and usefulness. There are also gifts and cards organised by daddy's wife, and I, in turn, am presented with a lovely photo my ex has taken of our children.

There is a vaguely Masonic feel to our Father's Day celebrations. On Sunday afternoon, Clara and Conor and I troop round to daddy's house where gifts are duly presented. From Clara there is a cake, baked, decorated and boxed with infinite care and a barbecue apron customised with the word "Dad" spelled out shakily in sequins and glitter. From Con, there is a no less gorgeously customised balloon that makes farty noises. Daddy dons the ceremonial apron (airily dismissing the design fault of a pinny that can never be washed), lets off the balloon and pronounces the gifts to be works of staggering beauty and usefulness. There are also gifts and cards organised by daddy's wife, and I, in turn, am presented with a lovely photo my ex has taken of our children.

It's all very modern and friendly, with the kids running the show and the adults on their best behaviour. Similar scenes of functional, fractured family life will have taken place all over the country, but you'd never know it from reading the newspapers. The headlines are full of fathers campaigning for access to their estranged children and the latest statistics on the "alarming proportion [to quote the Daily Mail] of children who live with just one parent". These children, we are reminded, are likely to do worse at school, suffer worse health and commit more crime than those with two parents. No account is taken, in this dire demographic, of the other social factors affecting one-parent families, but I'm willing to bet that child poverty - a political cold potato if ever there was one - plays a substantial role.

Leaving aside the issue of divorced parents, whose responsibility it is to thrash out an acceptable deal for their children (and no, it's not great fun, but sometimes you just have to make like the grown-ups), there is the information that one in five babies is now born into a home without a father. For 85 per cent of these lone mothers, pregnancy was unplanned and, presumably, came about without the help of a turkey baster. Nevertheless, the "blame" for the increase in lone parenthood is laid squarely at the door of the mothers. Robert Whelan of the Civitas think-tank huffs and puffs about the selfishness of "young women who have never bothered to bring a man into the house". (My italics). Does Mr Whelan honestly believe that most single mothers are slamming doors in the faces of cheque-book-waving fathers desperate to play happy families? If so, he is dangerously deluded.

The sad, politically unglamorous truth is that absent fathers frequently don't give a damn, financial or otherwise, about their children. Of course there are exceptions and it is right that the profile of this unhappy group should be raised, although I can't for the life of me see how putting on fancy dress and having to be rescued from tall buildings demonstrates a capacity for responsible parenthood.

All the world now knows that fathers have rights. Will they claim their responsibilities with equal sound and fury? I won't be holding my breath.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little