The family unit can take many forms today; single parent, the inclusion of step mothers and fathers, a working mum and stay at home dad, or even a dad and dad. But for all their shapes and guises, the world of child care still ultimately remains the domain of women. Playgroups, support networks, mothers’ forums; the amount of oestrogen pumped into the world of the child carer was enough to even give me the shivers during maternity leave. I met up with two guys breaking the mould and shaking up the perception of child carers as full time daddies.
Declan Renouard has been looking after his son Ryan since July, when his wife Stevie returned to work at HSBC. For the Renouards having Declan as the primary child carer made sound financial sense. He had the lower salary and an opportunity to take on some part time work a few evenings a week. They were adamant that one of them be afforded the chance to care for Ryan rather than use the services of a child minder and Declan is loving every minute in his role as dad.
Admittedly his time is spent surrounded by women; he has yet to encounter another father at the classes he frequents with his son including swimming, playgroups and baby sensory. This doesn’t faze him though and Declan has slotted in flawlessly. “I get a lot of “are you babysitting today? or “is it mummy’s day off?”” he admits, explaining that people are often surprised by what he does, but very accepting. He is never made to feel isolated and finds his female peers friendly and engaging, sometimes even thrilled to have the company of a man!
Ollie De La Cloche is planning his transition to child carer status next year, when his wife returns to her job as a teacher, with a little more apprehension. Still getting his head round the unknown quantum that is having a daughter, Ollie will soon be in unchartered territory devoting his time almost entirely to the opposite sex. He is very much the alpha male, a man’s man and I suspect will not take so easily to discussions on sore nipples and nappy rash creams as Declan. But he is nothing if not proactive in how he will shape his days with his beautiful daughter Kaia.
Excited about having the time to bond with his daughter, Ollie also wants to use this opportunity to shape his future, exploring ways in which he can bring an income into the household whilst being a full time dad. He leaves behind him a job as a gardener and one idea is to produce children’s stories that would emulate his life and adventures as a father, alongside his loveable sausage dog Indi, although we agreed a working title of “Ollie and his Sausage” still needed some work!
The hope is that Ollie can reach out to other fathers in a similar position and start his own social daddies group, diluting his days of women. “Think of it as you will as a “Babies and Beer” event!” he explained. Both Ollie and Declan don't have many friends with young children so socialising with other parents and kids is important to them both.
There are groups already out there for men in Jersey, although they take some finding. I eventually stumbled upon “Men Behaving Dadly (Jersey)” set up by a working father who felt self-conscious at other mums’ groups and offers dads the chance to socialise with other fathers once a month. Then there is the “Brighter Futures Dads Club” which meets at the Bridge for male bonding and bacon rolls (most of these groups revolving round the staple that is bacon).
The fathers I met, working or not, all admit there is more to be done to support and put at ease male carers in Jersey. With benefits now offered equally to both male and female carers and employment laws being refreshed to banish gender discrimination it is likely that the number of full time dads will start to slowly rise. It will be interesting to see throughindividuals like Declan and Ollie, how the support network for fathers in Jersey will flourish and encourage others to join the ranks of Super Dad!
For now to get the ball rolling, Declan meet Ollie, your group is already growing…