Mark Woods: Family Matters

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It’s father’s Fortnight at my son’s primary school.

The alliteration did make me wonder if the staff had started with Dad’s Day, felt it a bit paltry and kept going...

Hush my cynical mouth though, because whatever it’s called it can only be a good idea. I put my name down for one of the slots where you are required to cook for, with and in front of 30 seven-year- olds.

Ambitiously for me, I 
chose Chinese chicken dumplings primarily 
because the little plastic machine I’ve got to shape them looks a lot like a toy and even rings a bell when they have been successfully fashioned.

Everything was going swimmingly until my youngest son who attends the nursery attached to the school spotted me and the colliding of his two worlds temporarily blew his little mind.

A hug or two later, and after each of the groups had taken part, one of the excellent teachers helping me said how lovely and rare it was to see fathers in school.

Given that a survey released this week revealed just how difficult fathers find it to take the paternity leave entitled to them that’s hardly surprising.

The research by the Institute of Leadership & Management also found that less than one in 10 new fathers take more than two weeks of paternity leave and that just nine per cent of them receive anything longer than two weeks at full pay.

With those type of entrenched practices in play, plans for shared parental leave scheduled to come online from April 2015 will be fundamentally flawed unless there’s a drastic attitudinal change in the workplace – and being able to successfully ask for a bit of time off to show your face at your children’s school occasionally will remain a distant dream for the vast majority.

The holiday I took to be part of Father’s Fortnight felt well spent to me, but the alliteration continued at drop off the following morning when the best part of 29 children all came up to greet me with, “Hello Daddy Dumpling.”

Twitter @mark_r_woods