Róisín Ingle

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YOU’D HAVE TO feel sorry for some of the mo bros, those men who are growing beards and moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues this month. I’m hearing distressing reports this Movember of women being physically repulsed by the growth appearing on the faces of their beloveds.

Apparently you don’t marry a man or bear children with him and expect that one day you will wake up beside that person in bed to observe the aesthetically displeasing combination of grey and ginger hair sprouting from their usually smooth visage. I know at least one woman who is withholding all conjugal carryings-on until normal shaving resumes on December 1st.

“I don’t care how good the cause is,” this mo sista muttered darkly as she explained the ugly turn of events to me. “Ginger and grey. Horrific combination.”

The Movember movement began in Australia and is now a global phenomenon that, since 2004, has raised €123m for charities and raised awareness for prostate cancer. Lots of these selfless, generous mo bros also happen to be selfless, generous busy working dads. I bumped into one of them, a friend, holding his new baby when I went Halloween scavenging the other week. Fortunately, nature had been kind. He wasn’t rocking that woman-repelling ginger and grey combo.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the busy working dad. I happen to live with one of them, and some of my best friends . . . etc. Apart from breastfeeding and societal pressure on them to be yummy daddies, in many ways they are pretty much exactly like the busy working mum. They just get far fewer mentions on television lifestyle programmes.

Anyway, whether they are growing a moustache or not this Movember, I think we need to talk about them more.

Apologies for what I can feel building into a mild rant, but a report published in the US earlier this year, Beyond the Breadwinner: Professional Dads Speak Out On Work and Family,showed that just like mothers who work outside the home, an overwhelming number of working fathers are finding it hard to juggle their roles as earners and parents. It’s a role that’s drastically changed from the days when men were traditional breadwinners and women did the vast majority of both child rearing and housework. The report showed that 85 per cent of fathers feel pressured to be both a financial provider and an engaged parent, with three out of four of them worrying that their jobs do not allow them to be the kind of dads they would like to be.

Boo hoo, eh? Finally men are taking on their full parental responsibilities. Some of them are holding down jobs and at the same time doing more than their fair share of domestic and childcare duties. They are worrying about being perceived as weak or uncommitted if they ask their bosses for time off because their toddler has the chicken pox. They are rushing home to relieve the childminder, or pick up a child from creche because their female partner is working late.

Here they are, reading bed time stories, making the dinner and mopping the floor while stressing about the following morning’s work meeting.

The heart bleeds, eh? That’s just what busy working mums have always done, and they never got much thanks for it. If, nowadays, some men are also engaged in that fruitless quest to “have it all”, then it’s good enough for them, right? Welcome, some women might be saying through gritted teeth, to our world.

But this isn’t about saying bravo to men for stepping up to the plate. I just think we parents might be missing a trick. The more we celebrate our busy working dads, the more we talk about their contribution, the more we ask them what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling, the more we increase the chances of family friendly work places and policies becoming the norm.

Of course it’s irritating that because men are also now struggling – according the website Fathers At Work, “father stress” costs US business more than $150bn a year – employers might take more notice.

But we have to stop flexible working being seen as some kind of “perk” of motherhood. When parents, that is mothers and fathers, begin demanding family friendly workplaces, it’s reasonable to hope that companies will be more receptive to offering flexible work options. As long as we keep seeing this as a working mum’s issue, not a working parent’s issue we will be stuck. Men continuing to be what some have called “the silent stakeholder” in the work/life debate is in nobody’s interest.

And here concludeth my mild rant.

I’d like to take this opportunity to salute all the mo bros, particularly those who are also busy working dads. To subvert a popular book/movie: “I don’t know how he does it.” And if you are a busy working dad mo bro who is coming up grey and ginger, or any other horrific hair combination, I’d like to offer sympathy with my salutations. And point out that December 1st isn’t really that far away.

In other news . . . The country seems to be coming down with markets at the moment and that’s a great thing in my book. One of the freshest and funkiest is The Ha’penny Bridge market at the Grand Social, 37 Lower Liffey Street, Dublin 1. Contemporary crafts, vintage bargains, hand-made fascinators and stew from The Winding Stair make it a must-visit. Every Saturday, 11am-5pm.

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