This is a guest post by Paul Nevitt, a 33-year-old male who is going through the adoption process with his wife. We are very pleased to have him share his insights. Visit his adoption blog
National ‘Dads Matter’ Week came and went at the beginning of December with only a mere mention in the press. Many of the local schools in our neck of the woods chose not to display the posters in their foyers citing that most of the children didn’t know their Dads and a can of worms was the last thing needed to be opened.
This has been a bug bear of mine ever since I started teaching many years ago. Stemming from a particularly unpleasant meeting I had with a mother of one of my year three pupils. It was a cold evening so I was desperate to get off the school yard as quickly as possible but was rather taken aback when this parent bullishly demanded to speak to me there and then.
I gently persuaded her to come inside and discuss whatever it was that was causing her such annoyance. After a long and quite heated conversation it boiled down to the fact we hadn’t made Mother’s Day cards that year and therefore her daughter was upset because she hadn’t been able to give her Mum a card on the said Sunday.
I took plenty of time explaining school policy dictated that if there were genuine issues in a class where pupils might become distraught because they were a single parent family then activities like this were dropped. I had then very calmly explained that one of the other children in the class had very sadly and recently lost their mother so therefore it would be remiss of me to spend a full afternoon making cards to celebrate the Mothers of the other children.
On returning my mug to the staffroom for its weekly wash I mentioned this scenario to a colleague, who kindly explained that she thought I had done the correct thing and went on to say that she never made Father’s Day cards in the twenty years she had been teaching. I dug a little deeper and found out that I was the only member of staff who had ever made Father’s Day cards out of a teaching staff of twenty one. Why?
It seems like it was too much fuss and not of paramount importance. So why did it take a full afternoon when it came to Mothering Sunday. It seemed to me that attitudes have changed very little over the years.
This fear was compounded recently when I was called back from an adoption meeting my wife and I were attending because there was an emergency at work. On reflection the emergency had little to do with me and could quite easily have been coped with by other senior staff. I voiced my opinion with my boss and explained that I had been given assurances that we would be fully supported in our adoption journey. The response I received was alarming to say the least – ‘I suppose you will be requesting paternity leave as well?’
So have national campaigns like National ‘Dads Matter’ Week made a difference? My experience tells me the opposite yet my own Dad tells me he would have loved to have had time off when my brother and I were born. Either way or the other I’ll not hold my breath to receive a school made Father’s Day card.