A dad's life
FAMILY LIFE:With fathers performing ever more of the at-home duties, what do modern dads bring to the parenting equation? Dads from all walks of life decode their most important job and tell ALANNA GALLAGHERhow they make it work
GERMAN FATHER NILS PICKERT made international headlines recently when he was photographed with his dress-wearing five-year-old while sporting a skirt walking down his small town’s main street. The child, who was being called names by classmates, was emboldened by his parent’s solidarity and even asked if he could wear his dresses into school.
Pickert said he wore the skirt “to help broaden” his son’s shoulders. It worked. The Pickerts may be the talk of the town but his five-year-old is no longer being mocked.
The story sparked much debate on what fathers should and shouldn’t be doing for their children. Ray O’Neill, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with counselling clinic Machna, was impressed by Pickert’s behaviour and would love to see more of it.
“It was such a manly thing to do and in actions not words. Whether you’re into Man United, rugby or ballet, a father should be supporting his children to be them.”
The role of the Irish father has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. They’re now involved and not afraid to show their kids their soft side.
So what is the modern dad particle? It is elusive and can’t be defined, says O’Neill. He suggests that “being a dad is more important than being a man. Being a dad is about acceptance, love, encouragement. It’s about taking pride in your children.”
Having a father enriches a child’s life, he adds. “A lot of people have a father but have never had a dad. They seek out a dad in their emotional and sexual relationships.” He defines the role of the father as: “A dad allows a child to be themselves and provides affirmation, recognition and love.”
‘It’s important to be involved in the children’s lives’
Father-of-four Colm Walsh describes himself as a flexible dad. “Because I’m self employed I can create time during the week around working. So I can be involved in school activities and after-school activities such as swimming and karate and collecting them from parties and play dates. I know all about their social lives. I get to see what the kids are doing, see what is going on and who their school friends are. I also get to meet other parents. As a result it takes the pressure off at the weekend and I find creates a better rhythm to the whole family. It doesn’t have to be such a work hard, play hard routine.”
He has evolved his business around his family rather than the other way around. Do the kids appreciate it? “I think they do. Some of their friends’ dads leave early and come back late. Others work abroad and they Skype each other. I appreciate the luxury of being able to potter around. I think it’s important for a dad to be visible and involved in their lives. I’m like the stabilisers on their bikes. I’m in the background. I step in when required. It’s a protective role.”
Colm Walsh runs Yoga Dublin which has studios in Ranelagh, Dundrum and Rathfarnham. He is father to Aoibhínn (9), Sadhbh (8), Connie (6) and Ruairi (3).
‘My responsibility is to love them’
Barry Dempsey looks after the family’s paramedic business: “cuts, grazes, plasters, a pain in the head, does it need an X-ray? That is my job.”