Fathers need more recognition of their parenting role both at work and home
Fathers in Scotland are on the cusp of getting equal status to mothers for the role they play in family life.
An influential committee of MSPs say historic prejudice against fathers has been a root cause of them not taking on active parenting roles.
Creating a father friendly working culture in Scotland will allow fathers to negotiate shared parenting of their children more easily - David Drysdale
Now MSPs say they will strive to redress the imbalance by working to create better structures to help fathers play a greater role in future.
The equal opportunities committee’s Fathers and Parenting report reveals dads are being routinely side-lined by the medical profession, social work departments, care organisations and even nurseries simply because of their gender.
And it found a lack of willingness from employers to grant fathers flexible working was holding many back from taking on fuller parenting roles.
The report states: “One of the strongest themes we heard in evidence was the concern that social attitudes towards fathers, along with the historical and cultural trend of the mother being the main caregiver, were root causes of men struggling to take on an active parenting role.”
The committee recommended that fathers should have the same access to services, specifically NHS ones, such as parenting classes, and the same right to flexible working hours as mothers.
Ian Maxwell, national manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland, said the report may in time be recognised as a notable milestone in challenging some of the institutional obstacles placed in the way of both fathers and mothers who want to share parenting of their children.
“It is our experience that the obstacles the committee has identified become steeper for fathers when the marriage or relationship breaks down,” he said.
“The advantages for the children of the full involvement of both parents while the parents are together often get sidelined on separation.”
David Drysdale, chair of Fathers Network Scotland said a lack of services open to fathers was an issue of gender inequality.
He added: “Employment is still a barrier to dads’ involvement. Creating a father friendly working culture in Scotland will allow fathers to negotiate shared parenting of their children more easily, providing a more rounded experience for Scotland’s children in the future.”
The equal opportunities committee convener Margaret McCulloch said: "We heard from so many fathers who wanted to take an active part in their children's lives but who felt marginalised by society right at the start of their role in being discouraged from attending pre- and post-natal classes and support groups.
“Equally, we were not surprised to hear that the same childcare and flexible working issues keeping women from actively participating in the workplace also keep fathers from parenting.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said wider societal changes were needed as well as help from government, but they would consider what further measures could be taken.
She added: "The evidence to committee showed that, though progress has been made to recognise the incredible importance of both parents, there are still too many instances of a mother-centric view of parenting.
"We continue to work with a range of partners, some of whom gave evidence, to help other service providers make the same progress."