Am I a Latte Pappa?
And are there more Latte Pappas in Northern Ireland than you might think?
I only came across the term quite recently myself. It originated in Sweden and primarily referred to fathers who were able to spend more time with their kids, due to the forward thinking parental leave laws. Dads could be spotted out in the cafe's with their kids, while the mums were back at work. It was part of a wider strategy to promote both parents taking a more active role in parenting. Now, I don't really care for latte, but I love a flat white!
When I was still at work, I found taking parental leave a battle, despite some recent improvements in our own legislation. There seemed to be no importance placed on family life. When I booked a third week of unpaid leave for each of my children's births, I was practically vilified- despite the option being protected in law. The first time my manager said I had to approach all my co-workers and ask their 'permission' to take the leave that should have been automatic. The second time my manager told me continually how my team would have to 'do my work for me' and that I had to take on extra work to 'make up for it.' Hardly very progressive.
I'm now happily looking after my two kiddos full time for the next few years, while doing my fiction writing on the side. My wife and I are thrilled that one of us can be with the children all the time and we're financially no worse off. I think it's shameful how expensive childcare is in the UK, but perhaps one positive side effect is that some parents end up choosing to be at home as I have. The alternative for us would have been that I would continue to hardly see my children and for basically no difference in income.
What I've noticed in this first year is that it is not just mothers anymore who are choosing to stay at home here, and I am not such an anomaly. At nursery, tots, and at the dreaded soft play, I come across other dads who have made the same choice. There is certainly still a negative stigma attached at times and Northern Ireland isn't exactly the most progressive country (cough- maybe that new £1 Billion will help!) but some families are certainly trying it. If your wife earns a lot more than you do- why not be the one to look after the kids and cook the tea? I feel lucky to be able to.
It seems to me that the culture of people working until they are sick and burned out, and even families where both parents are flat out in work all the time, is coming to a head. It feels like the tide is starting to change, with talk of shorter working weeks and the importing of family orientated policies from our neighbours abroad.
Anyway, it's time for me to run to nursery and yes you'll probably find me in a cafe' with the kids later on.