We surveyed dads to find out what impacts the lockdown has had on health, finances and family life.
Most modern dads are doing significantly more day to day parenting during lockdown than they were before the pandemic began. That’s the message from a new DaddiLife survey of dad life in lockdown. Our figures show that 76% of respondents believe they are more involved dads now than they were before the Covid crisis.
That’s a perfectly reasonable result, of course. Many more of us are working from home. Some of us are on furlough, or have seen hours (and, unfortunately, incomes) cut. Some dads have lost their jobs altogether.
So it’s not too much of a stretch to see that, with more time on our hands, we’re more involved in the everyday lives of our children. Our survey dug down into the details of what, exactly, that means. Nearly all of our respondents (83%) have upped the amount of playtime we spend with our kids.
But we’re happy to get our hands dirty too. Our survey found that:
- 70% of dads who responded are doing more cleaning up
- 67% are doing more cooking
- 51% of us are involved in homeschooling our children.
From our results it would seem that, when it comes to pandemic parenting, many modern dads are doing their bit.
A contrary view of pandemic parenting
But before we give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back, it should be noted that our survey goes against the current narrative of pandemic parenting.
For example, a study published at the end of May from researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and University College London (UCL) interviewed 3,500 families and concluded that mums appear to be doing most during lockdown.
“Mothers are doing, on average, more childcare and more housework than fathers who have the same work arrangements,” said Lucy Kraftman, a research economist at the IFS.
A US study that looked at homeschooling found that men and women have very different views on their contributions during lockdown. The study, for the New York Times, found that while half of men said they were doing most of the home schooling, only 3% of mums agreed. It also found that women reported doing more household chores than their spouses.
In general, studies seem to support the view that childcare and household chores are being shared unequally during the pandemic, with mums doing more than dads.
Some men are doing more
So why are our results different? In fact, the studies are not necessarily contradictory. It’s highly likely that many men are doing much more in terms of childcare and chores during lockdown – and that many mums are too. If there were inequalities in the distribution of the domestic load before Covid-19, that has simply continued into lockdown.
But it’s also true that women are more likely to have lost their jobs during lockdown, and that more women work in sectors that have had to shut down during the pandemic. So in some cases dads will have taken on more working hours to compensate for the reduction in family income. In others, mums will simply be working less.
Still, many dads could do more, especially in households where both partners work. But researchers do accept that lockdown might bring about lasting change in the division of household labour. “Fathers, on average, are doing nearly double the hours of childcare they were doing prior to the crisis,” said Sonya Krutikova of the IFS.
“This may bring about changes in the attitudes of fathers, mothers, children and employers about the role of fathers in meeting family needs for childcare and domestic work during the working week.”
Our research supports this view. When asked what they would think of changing post-lockdown, our dads put spending more quality time with family (32%) first, followed by more flexible (25%) and remote (19%) working.
Negatives and positives for pandemic parenting
Our survey ranged wider than just childcare and chores, however, digging into mental and physical health, finances and more.
Perhaps predictably, 60% of our respondents said that their mental health had been negatively affected by the pandemic, and 45% said their physical health had suffered.
That’s hardly surprising. Figures show more of us are drinking alcohol earlier in the day. They also show that many more of us are experiencing feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Parents are scared for themselves, and their children. Dads are not immune to these problems – far from it – though too many of us still try to suppress our feelings in the mistaken belief that men should appear strong.
At the same time, homeschooling has piled extra pressure on working parents, many of whom are simultaneously having to adapt to new working practices. Many parents are anxious that their attempts at education may be inadequate, and worry about slowing their child’s academic progress. For many dads it feels like a perfect storm of stress, even if more children’s playhouses and scooters have been purchased for the kids!
too many of us still try to suppress our feelings in the mistaken belief that men should appear strong
One surprise result from our survey was around finances. Inevitably, a significant number (27%) of the dads surveyed said their financial health had deteriorated during lockdown, a result which chimes with news of lockdown layoffs, furloughing and reduced hours.
Less predictably, a greater number (48%) of respondents said that their financial health had improved during lockdown. It seems that many of those dads who have kept their jobs – perhaps because they are able to work remotely – have seen their bank balances benefit from the prolonged closure of shops, restaurants, bars and attractions.
One positive that may come out of the Covid crisis is that some of us have been able to build up savings.
Also on the upside, 38% of dads said their physical health had improved – perhaps because they have more time to exercise – and 21% reported an improvement in mental health, which is perhaps related to both exercise and more time spent with family.
The last word
All in all, our survey finds a mixed bag of pandemic consequences for dads. Many of us are suffering from mental, physical and financial decline, while some are weathering the pandemic storm quite well.
Happily, our small survey shows that lots of us are pitching in more with childcare and chores. If that carries on after coronavirus, it is one aspect of parenting that will have been improved by this unprecedented and upsetting pandemic.
Notes on the survey: The survey was carried out between 1 May and 15 May 2020 with a group of 116 fathers in the UK.