Fatherhood sucks in 21st century Britain - Homeworking could come to the rescue - if we let it

Britain, the United Kingdom, merry old England. Whatever you want to call it, being a parent, especially a father in Britain generally sucks. As a new father, this is just starting to dawn on me just how bad it is.
Britain is a global popular culture superpower. It is the land of London, Downton Abbey, the Queen and the Beatles. It is also a country that has inequality, sliding living standards and a fractious relationship between the Celtic nations and England.
For a long time I have understood that family life is tough in the United Kingdom, however, like all life experiences, only once you have lived them can you fully grasp how bad and possibly why.

Before we begin

Now, before I dive deep into the reasons why, it very much sucks being a father in Britain I would like to acknowledge that being a father in the Congo, in Siberian Russia, Afghanistan, or in America is far, far worse.
Now, experiences vary across the world in regards to fatherhood, however, we will be looking at this with regards to Fatherhood versus other English speaking countries and European countries. Which almost without question are the best places to live in the world.
Please note I will use Great Britain, United Kingdom, UK and British interchangeably throughout as it reflects both the strangely mixed identity of the British isles as a place.
Also note this article talks about Fatherhood as I am a father.
However, much of what is presented here is applicable to wider family life and to mothers as well. I just feel that I can speak for Fathers from experience.
Anyway, after that slight detour let's progress onto why it sucks being a British father in the 21st century.

British Fatherhood

Overall, I have personally understood that being a father and having a family is tough in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Family is very much at the centre of political rhetoric in almost every election, yet in the UK, for many families, life is far harder than it ought to be.
Not being the parent part, I love. I love the little wee man and all his wonderful baby gowls.
They are a whole host of reasons why being a Father and generally family life sucks in the United Kingdom. This comes from a whole host of social, political and economic factors that make Britain a place that is no country for families. A subject I have touched on in the past.
Indeed in family friendliness, UNICEF recently placed the UK lowest amongst European Union and former EU countries. That’s pretty awful, however, you try to spin it.
This tale of woe is about to get real people, so strap yourselves in for a journey across the many reasons why fatherhood sucks in 21st-century Britain.

Reason 1. Schooling and a two-tier system

The United Kingdom has bad schools and an awful two-tier education system. Those who can pay for it, gaining a massive advantage in life compared to those who just have to lump what they are given.
Harry Potter makes the world of private schooling look wonderful. Yet private schooling has given us generations of people like Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Nick Clegg running the country.
There are many highly talented people who have gone to private school and achieved great things, however, in too many walks of life in the UK, exceptionally average people get far further due to private schooling, rather than talent or ability.
To understand this divide we only have to look at A-level results in England and Wales.
Private and Independent schools results - A or above - 70.1%
Comprehensive schools results - A or above - 39.3%
This two-tier system does as a father make you worry that your child will not be able to compete or reach their full potential. It also means it sucks.

Reason 2. School funding and underperformance

British schools in the state sector, underperform in a whole host of metrics.
This is not down to the teachers, many slaving away year after year trying to do what is best for their pupils. British schools underperform because of poor financing, and politicians who are addicted to interfering and changing the system every couple of years like it is a form of crack cocaine.
To understand this underperformance we have to remember that Britain is the 5th richest country on the entire planet, with two of the worlds top Universities. Yet:
  • According to the OECD, we are 7th in world spending per pupil.
  • Strip out private-sector spending and we drop to below the OECD average. 
  • Investment and spending in vocational education are below the OECD average.
  • Growth in education spending is below the OECD average.
  • For reading attainment, the UK is only in the top 20, but not the top 5.
  • For Maths the UK is in the top 20, but not the top 5
This gives a strong flavour of how Britain is failing to spend correctly to ensure our children are educated so they can reach their own personal potential. For any father, whether you want your child to become academically or vocationally successful this sucks.
This data was taken from sources at the OECD and BBC.

Reason 3. Death in pregnancy and child mortality

This is going to shock you. The country that has the NHS as a national religion and has free healthcare for all, has a shocking death in pregnancy and child mortality rates.
When I came across these figures, I was truly shocked and outraged.
The United Kingdom has the 5th biggest economy in the world, yet we are ranked 26th in the world for maternal mortality (mothers who die in childbirth). Equal with that powerhouse Turkmenistan. 7 mothers die per 100,000 births.
For context, Poland and Belarus are the world best-performing countries with 2 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.
On child morality before 5, the United Kingdom does not even reach the top 30. We are 33rd in the world.
This sucks. Because you might not even become a father.
Sources for these figures - maternal mortality and child mortality

Reason 4. Working culture

Britain has a sick working culture. Up and down the land, far too many people are doing far too many hours, generally for less pay than their European counterparts. This of course has an effect on family life and fatherhood. According to World Population Review:
Average hours worked
  • British worker: 41.8
  • Irish worker: 39.7
  • French worker: 38.9
  • German worker: 39.5
  • Danish worker: 37.2
  • Americans worker: 41.5
Percentage working 50 hours or more
  • Britain: 12.2%
  • Ireland: 5.3%
  • France: 7.7%
  • Germany: 4.3%
  • Denmark: 2.3%
  • America: 11.1%
As you can see the working culture of long hours (plus long commutes) is a real detriment to family life and helps make fatherhood suck in the UK.

Reason 5. Paternity leave is naff

Paternity leave rights in the UK suck. That is if you even get paternity leave. The UK has one of the lowest legal rights in Europe.
Paternity leave days in the UK is 10. Yes, 10. That’s if fathers even take that. Many fathers feel they cannot take more than a few days, as many feel they cannot take the entitlement.
This compares with 45 days with European leaders Finland.
Fathers on Universal Credit have no paternity leave from their commitments.
Naff paternity leave helps make fatherhood suck in 21st century Britain.

Reason 6. Benefits & entitlements

Britain has a love-hate relationship with benefits. We love the benefits we get and see them as a right yet hate benefit claimants as wasters, layabouts and feckless charlatans.
Which is a tabloid myth perpetuated because it sells papers and brings all the clicks to the yard.
  • 15% of food bank users are working in low pay jobs. 
  • Fathers on Universal Credit have no paternity leave from their commitments.
  • UK workers get 28 days holiday compared with Spain’s 36 and Sweden’s 35.
  • Sick pay is just £88 regardless of salary, compared with the Netherlands that pays 70% of your salary for 4 times as long.
  • In many European countries, unemployment benefit is a percentage of salary, with Denmark offering 90%. 
  • The UK offers just €88 per week.
This Glassdoor article cover this issue well, and this level. The low level of benefits and entitlements in the UK helps to make Fatherhood suck.

Reason 7. Commuter culture

Following on from our previous section on working culture, commuter culture is another factor why it sucks to be a father in 21st century Britain. Commuter culture.
The British spend a ‘stupidly’ large amount of time getting to and from work.
According to Transport Geography, the average British worker spends 46 minutes travelling to work compared with 25 minutes in the US and 23 minutes in Italy.
Although, it does suck to be Chinese with the average worker travelling 56 minutes.
Now, if you commute into London as I did, you would probably spend close to 120 minutes a day, every day, commuting to and from work. This time cannot be gotten back not spent with the family.
For my part, I was not a Father at this point. House prices and poor public transport drive this commuting culture. Which, helps make being a Father in the UK suck.

Reason 8. Living Costs

It is expensive to live in the UK. Of course, as the 5th biggest economy on planet earth it was never going to be cheap and compared with living in San Francisco or Hong Kong large swathes of the UK look cheap as chips. Living costs can vary across the world, depending on a range of factors so let’s consider purchasing power (how far your money goes) and median income (50th centile earnings) as good indicators. 
Given the UK economy is the 5th largest in the world, you would think that Britain with around 1% of the world's population would be close to the top of the disposable living rankings, however, the statistics tell a different story.
On Purchasing Power Parity the UK is 15th in the world.
Median disposable income ranks the UK as 18th in the world.
Take both of these statistics together is does point towards Britain having a high degree of the income distribution, with the 5th largest economies average workers having the world 15th average income.
Yet another reason, you guessed it why it sucks.

Reason 9. The Housing Crisis

Following on from the cost of living, Britain has another problem that means it sucks to be the Father. The
Housing Crisis. Going into massive detail about the housing crisis is not purpose hear, but Britain has a problem with:
  • A lack of social and affordable housing.
  • A lack of protection for private renters leading to insecure tenancies for families (it's better in Scotland by the way).
  • Purchasing a house now costs 7.8x the average salary.
  • New housing is of poor quality, small and not enough is being built. Britain needs to build 3 million homes just to keep up.
  • 3.6 million people live in overcrowded accommodation, whilst 10,000 live in emergency accommodation.
  • Private developers have captured housing and town planning policy meaning many new build estates are wastelands devoid of spaces that are human first.
If you want more detailed examples of the data behind the housing crisis please visit Shelter and Generation Rents websites and The Week.
The housing crisis means is another reason why it sucks being a father in the UK.
There are other reasons why 21 st century Britain is unfriendly towards families, however, I believe my point has been made.

Why is Britain an unfriendly place for families?

Above we have listed a large number of ways that being a Father can suck in Britain. But why does it suck?
Having thought long and hard on this, I have come up with ideas, but, have not come up with answers that are well researched just hunches. My hunches are:
  • British political culture promotes the individual over the family in almost all walks of life.
  • Decision-makers do not 'live' the same educational experiences of the governed.
  • British newspapers love nothing more to hate on benefits claimants and workers rights.
  • Thatcherism and Blairism allowed unparalleled post-war wealth inequalities to develop.
  • Skewed demographics that tilt policy towards the babyboomer generation.
  • Housing wealth has become an obsession, over real economic wealth.
These I believe contribute to a society that just does not value the family.
However, the biggest contributor to this situation is the British attitude of "it could be worse" to every situation and circumstance instead of believing "it could be better".
Ultimately, Britain lacks ambition for better.

Glimmers of hope? How homeworking can help

As an Englishman in Scotland, there are glimmers of hope arising from the Celtic fringe the Scottish baby box is a brilliant concept and the advent of homeworking has the chance for fathers to spend more time with their families.
Homeworking is no magic bullet to the lack of family-friendliness in British life. It does offer ways that families that do have the option to have parents home working to make life better.

More family time

Homeworking first and most important element is more time spent with the family. Just eliminating the average commute would free up 180 hours a year. That’s 3.5 hours extra family time.


Homeworking will also offer flexibility, as work moves from being 8 hours back to back to 8 hours across the day or 40 across the week.
Flexibility means that family life and schooling don’t end up in conflict, or become barriers. It makes it easier for fathers to take part and makes the holidays easier to manage.
This flexibility could be a real turning point for mother’s in the workplace as well and allow fathers to take a more active part in family life.

Living and housing costs

If Homeworking is fully embraced as a genuine alternative to the 9-5 5 days a week office slog, living costs and housing costs will drop for many families.
The need to live near job hubs will allow increased disbursement of the population. Family budgets will be eased as less will be spent on petrol and many families will be able to ditch the multi-car approach to life.
Personal costs of going to the office will also disappear, suits, lunches from Pret, etc will also disappear.
These types of savings will free up income and relieve some of the financial pressures of family life.

More time for education

Homework takes up a massive amount of time these days. It really shouldn’t.time starved parents will be able to use the commute time on homework.
I know once my wee one gets to school I am going to sooo enjoy helping with their French homework.

Productivity, not presentism

Homeworking offers the chance for businesses to move from being present models to being productive. This of course frightens a lot of people whose only contribution to life is being present in meetings.
A shift to productivity, offers the chance for more leisure time, fewer hours and more time on family stuff and being present where it greatly matters. At home.

Final thoughts

Now, this is a rather long article on why Fatherhood sucks in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In reality, this article is about family-friendliness, economic wealth disparity and the UK’s broken economic model.
Being a Father is brilliant, and there is much going for Britain as a country. We are blessed, and in many ways being born British is a very lucky thing in many ways: stable government, freedom, advanced economy etc. Sadly, as whole family life and fatherhood are not priorities for policymakers or businesses.
This needs to change, or it will still suck when I become a granddad for my wee one when he becomes a Father.

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