The modern father has a more intimate relationship with his children, but the sexual revolution, feminism and modern divorce laws have made him more insecure.
Browse content similar to The New Father. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
This is the image of the new father,
used by the advertising industry in the '90s
to sell the modern family lifestyle.
It reflects a major shift in men's attitude towards
their children in the last 50 years, and a sea change in the kind of dad
they aspire to be.
The physical and emotional intimacy
between father and child has never been more intense.
Suddenly you're in there right in the middle with
someone that you just love to bits.
We just had a huge amount of fun together - this little, this little
person who was just evolving before my eyes.
And I was with her sort of all day long, every day.
Never had expectations
of the good father been so high, but at the same time, never had dads
felt so vulnerable, so powerless and so excluded from family life.
As divorce spiralled, the legal system marginalised fathers,
making it difficult for them to stay close to their children.
They became lost in a labyrinth of bureaucracy and court orders.
Some took to the streets, bewildered by changes that seemed to be
making them redundant.
What sort of person
is going to say, "Actually you know what, we don't need fathers"?
What sort of person is going to say,
"Well, we're going to put you through eight years,
"or ten years of going through the family justice system"?
Two parents are better than one, surely to God that's what we
believe in as a country, surely that's what's best for children.
But when families split up, it was still the mother rather than
the father who was assumed to be the natural and best parent.
Fatherhood is not really looked upon
with the same sort of strength as motherhood.
This weird concept that somehow mothers are closer to their children,
it's something that I think has become a self-fulfilling prophecy,
where we've said it so often that we not only believe it, we now enact it
and we now have a society where it's the norm.
In almost every home in Britain, the relationship between the modern
father and his children was being redefined.
50 years of sexual liberation and feminism had changed the rules.
The hands-on modern dad was very different to the traditional
father figure of the past. He was more intimate, yet more insecure.
This is the story of the difficult birth of the new father.
This is how it used to be.
-Keep your eyes shut.
-I am darling, tight shut.
In the '50s dream of married life, the husband had a clear role
-as provider and protector in his new home.
-Now open them.
-Oh, is this ours?
Oh, put me down, I want to look.
But this dream of suburban family life
had far less appeal to the young generation of the '60s.
Oh, darling, it's heavenly.
I can't believe it's all true.
Some who'd grown up in solidly middle class homes
saw suburbia as a trap and wanted to break free from all convention
to discover who they really were.
One of them was public school boy Rashid.
I always felt very clearly the ridiculousness
of the moral code by which we lived. It was stultifying, it was rigid.
I perceived myself at the age of 20 as a stuffed shirt.
I couldn't say or think anything that hadn't been put into me by
school, my parents, my family, you know that I...
I felt myself as an automaton in some way.
The young men who would become the next generation of fathers
were embracing the values of the '60s sexual revolution,
with its explosion of hedonistic music and fashion.
First to go were the taboos on sex before marriage, once regarded
as essential in encouraging couples to marry and stay together for life.
I ended up jumping into bed with the first woman who would have me,
really, who was herself
a product of that same society.
So already you know it's a totally unsustainable relationship.
To begin with, the sexual freedom was liberating.
It was made possible by the invention and widespread use
of the contraceptive pill.
But there were still many unplanned pregnancies.
Young rebels like Rashid soon became young husbands and fathers.
For a while, actually, it was wonderful, maximum sexual temptation
with maximum opportunity to
Very soon she got pregnant and I was very excited cos I've always
loved kids, I've always, always been able to relate easily to kids.
The swinging sixties is a decade that's become legendary
for its sexual daring and extra-marital affairs.
Of course there was nothing new
about adultery, but the permissive atmosphere encouraged young people
to take a more open and honest attitude to sexual adventures.
When the secret came out, however, the feelings of anger, jealousy and
rejection that were unleashed could destroy any relationship.
Would you come inside now, please.
What was once a lifetime commitment was ending in divorce
and the trickle of divorce cases became a flood after the 1969
Divorce Reform Act made it much easier for a couple to split up.
And marriage according to the law of
this country is the union of one man with one woman.
But the new divorce laws
also helped turn the marriage break-up into a battleground.
One glamorous '60s marriage which ended in a bitter divorce battle
was that of playwright Terence Frisby.
She went to see a divorce lawyer.
I said, "Don't go, we don't want a lawyer, let's just try and sort
"this out between us. You've been unfaithful, I've been unfaithful.
"What's it matter, the lives we've been living,
"what big surprise is that?"
And she sort of concurred with that, but, this man, I'm pretty sure now in
retrospect he fancied her and he was determined to get her into
bed if he could, and he made sure that no reconciliation occurred.
Terence was one of the '60s fathers who discovered how the
new divorce laws put men in a vulnerable position when it came
to access to their children.
He had to fight hard to see his young son, Dominic.
I turned up at my mother-in-law's house and knocked on the door
to see Dominic.
And no-one was at home.
And I just stood on the doorstep on this summer's afternoon,
I thought I was going to see my son for the first time for months
and, then afterwards an apology was made, "Oh, she wasn't well, sorry."
Well, if she wasn't well, where was she?
She wasn't at home,
and so even then every little trick and nuance was used
to try and twist the knife and I can remember well, I can remember
the pain of it, of course I can, but I remember the rage I felt about it.
I thought it was disgusting that the courts
should even let it happen and my own lawyers just shrugged and said,
"Oh, well, that's what the courts do."
Meanwhile, the big influx of fathers
who came to Britain as economic migrants from New Commonwealth
countries like India and Pakistan, also felt the pain of separation
from their children but for very different reasons.
Laeeq Khan arrived in Bradford from Pakistan in 1967.
His aim was to work hard
to help create a new and better life for the family he'd left behind.
It was a very big decision, I didn't want to do that,
because that would mean leaving Farhat and two boys.
But I had to take it because I was so ashamed of my earnings
in Pakistan, not to be able to afford what they want and, in future,
what they will expect from me.
Laeeq was a proud breadwinner whose mission, like many other
post-war immigrants, was to provide for his wife and children.
By saving hard, he hoped one day to be able to afford to bring them over
to Britain so they could all live together again.
Though this meant he had to live
apart from his wife, Farhat, and his children for years,
there was no question about his loyalty and devotion.
There was no way that I could send them a lot of money which
I didn't have, so the only
thing which I thought I should do is to keep writing to Farhat,
and, so that she at least have link with me every day,
or almost every day.
So I wrote...
Before I used to go to sleep, I always had a letter
in the envelope.
Stamped, so that when I get up in the morning, on my way
I'd post that letter to Farhat.
But a very different dream was capturing the imagination
of the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll generation in Britain.
This was the hippy ideal
of escaping the rat race and living a more simple life on the land.
Amongst the men inspired by this dream was Rashid.
He split up with his first wife
and, in 1970, moved to Wales with his new family.
I've always felt myself as a country person and so we just
decided, Nicky and I, to go and leave London, buy a little farm.
Suddenly we were in this totally new life, we had to learn everything
and it was wonderful being
close to nature, growing our own food, shepherding our own sheep,
taking care of them, lambing time, and in amongst that,
having our own second son. Joseph was born upstairs
in the bedroom with this
wonderful view that overlooked the mountains of Wales,
the Brecon Beacons, the Black Mountains,
all the way up to Shropshire.
Beautiful, beautiful place we lived in, we were in paradise.
Paradise for Terence Frisby
was simply being able to see his son, Dominic.
His legal battle with his ex-wife to get access to him continued.
This made the time they were able to spend together
all the more precious.
One of the best things that happened when he was a kid was swimming.
I took him swimming twice a week.
That was when I got to see him, twice a week when he was five or something.
And then I taught him to swim at a very young age and he really,
he embraced the water as only kids can.
But these joyful moments were always cut short by painful handovers
that, for Terence, still evoke images of the Cold War.
Coming and picking him up was ghastly and taking him back was worse.
And I used to call it the Berlin Wall handover.
You remember in those days, in the Cold War, the spies and things
that were handed over at Checkpoint Charlie or somewhere in Berlin?
Anyway, I always called it the Berlin Wall handover and I used to turn up.
Sometimes Dominic would be running up and down outside the house,
when he was a bit older, with his swimming togs under his arm,
waiting and so on. And coming round the corner...
And you see it gets me even now, seeing him there was quite a sight.
The fathers who'd left their families
in New Commonwealth countries to make a new home for them in Britain,
knew the agony of being apart from their loved ones all too well.
after seven years of separation, Laeeq Khan's wife and three children
set out from their home town in Pakistan to join him in Bradford.
Their extraordinary journey and reunion were filmed by Panorama.
Waiting for them to arrive at Heathrow Airport was Laeeq.
The prohibitive cost of long distance air travel had meant that
he had not been able to afford to visit his wife and children.
Now they were about to be reunited forever.
I went to Heathrow airport.
Here she comes with the children
and they're very, very nice children,
very, very nice.
They came running...
cling to me.
they were very excited.
And I was very excited when I saw Farhat and the children.
I had to hold my emotions.
I wanted to kiss her, but I couldn't.
But she, she knew that I loved her
and the boys came round to me and I hugged them.
Laeeq's Muslim cultural background forbade any public display of
the deep emotions he felt.
He couldn't wait to take his family back to Bradford to
the new home he'd bought for them.
Then I brought them home.
I was very proud...
to bring them in my house.
They waited seven years
..and I was very proud to be Dad then.
Laeeq trained to be a television engineer so he could earn good money
and provide for the needs of his family in a way that had
been impossible in Pakistan.
He embodied the best values of the traditional father.
The boys were waiting eagerly for me to come home,
and when I opened the door they were behind the door.
THEY SHOUT EXCITEDLY
You know, and they, they all round me,
and they loved me, you know, as if there is nothing...
..nobody is more important in their life...
..then their dad.
However, some British families were giving up on traditional notions
of dad altogether.
In an extraordinary piece of reverse migration,
they rejected the materialistic world of the west
and travelled east looking for spiritual and sexual enlightenment.
In 1977, Rashid and his family gave up their small farm to start afresh
in an ashram in Poona.
They joined the Orange People becoming disciples of the Indian
mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who christened them all with new names.
This is where Rashid, formerly called Patrick, got his new name.
For me, a lot
of that time in Poona
was to do with letting go of a lot of our conditionings to do with mine.
So we didn't have any possessions, we didn't want any possessions,
we didn't need it. OK, I've got a record player.
Bhagwan's followers tried
to free their minds from all ideas of western convention.
Open and loving relationships
were regarded as the key to enlightenment.
But they soon found it wasn't that easy.
In a sense I was sort of letting go of my wife, my son,
and, by that reverse logic I was in a way expecting that...
..I could be with my girlfriend, with a girlfriend,
with my son there, and it wasn't
a big issue for him that she wasn't my mummy.
In fact, it didn't work like that.
But I didn't really recognise clearly
how deep the old thing is, you know.
that this is my wife and my son and my mother.
How deep these are or even,
that they are hardwired into us and that we'll always have that.
The emotional importance of family ties proved stronger
than Rashid had imagined.
Although he remained a loyal disciple of Bhagwan,
his wife soon left him and returned to England with the children.
At some level, I always felt that the relationship
with Nicky was ongoing, that we were still together although
we had to go different ways to do it.
And, yeah, I lived celibately for...
..really until I got a dear John letter from her
saying, actually, she's now with Johnny and...
..it's all, it's all over between us.
And for me that was painful, it was very painful.
But yet living in that commune, which is incredibly emotionally supportive,
I was sort of OK.
I went through my stuff.
Rashid's personal quest would result in a painful
separation from his children that would last for many years.
However for Terence Frisby, the separation from his son Dominic was
so devastating, in 1974 he helped set up the group Families Need
Fathers, which campaigned for equal parenting rights in divorce cases.
He and Dominic, seen here playing in the back garden, were featured
in this BBC Open Door programme.
Families Need Fathers is concerned with equal parenting.
Every year an increasing number of marriages collapse.
The chances of you being in a divorce as either parent
or child is now nearly 2 to 1 on.
It's a sobering thought, isn't it?
Suddenly we had an epidemic of men deprived of their children
because of divorce and I don't think that has ever happened before.
Divorce before the '60s was very much a middle
and upper middle class affair, wasn't it?
And chaps were much more buttoned up then, and the boys might have
gone to public schools anyway.
But suddenly, there was a whole generation of men
who were being deprived of their children, and for the first time
we heard this murmur coming up from underneath somewhere, that,
it's not fair, which it wasn't.
Sorry to say something so banal, but there you are.
And, I think Families Need Fathers gave a voice to that, very much so,
and I heard so many stories in their walk-in talk-ins of ghastlinesses.
It was very good that people could come and hear it was happening
to other people because, as always in these things,
it's like Alcoholics Anonymous and all of that, isn't it?
it's jolly good to find that you're
not alone in the world in this thing and you're, you're not some madman.
In the 1970s and '80s, the influence of feminism put further pressure on
the traditional family based on marriage for life
in which the mother stayed at home and the father went out to work.
It was hugely influential in persuading the younger generation
that housework was demeaning
and there should be a more equal relationship between men and women.
Women now wanted a career as well as a family, just like their husbands.
The ideals of feminism were embraced by many men too, who
believed that becoming more involved in bringing up their children would
also enrich their lives.
Nevertheless, the new responsibilities that
they knew they would have to take on made some young men more uncertain
about becoming a father.
Charlie Rice became a dad in 1975, when he was 24.
Julia kept on saying, she wanted to become a mum, she wanted to,
and I just all the time thought, oh, no, I'm too young
for this, I'm still a kid myself.
Anyway, she came home one day, said I've been to the doctor,
the doctor said I'm pregnant. My first thought was where can I run to?
It was, I really thought, no way can I do this, I am not old
enough to look after myself properly, let alone look after another child.
Can I have one more push for the rest of the baby.
The new fathers of the seventies were encouraged to be present
at the birth of their baby as a way of bonding them together
from the very beginning. For Charlie it was a life changing moment.
The making of me really,
was to see the birth of my daughter, it really was. It changed me
and I know people talk about bonding and all this kind of stuff.
I suddenly grew up, I did.
To see this vulnerable little being coming out, her little head and then
slowly and slowly and then her body just slithered out.
It changed me completely.
There was this being who was just so needy of me, she did, she needed me,
and I knew that I was there to give and provide and nurture
for this baby.
Charlie took to being a new father with great passion.
It was more difficult than he ever imagined, but worth it.
I was busy, sterilising bottles, washing nappies, feeding, because
Bronnie went onto the bottle when she was three months old
because her mum went off to a women's conference up in Manchester for
International Women's Day and so I had her for the weekend, completely,
you know, dependent upon me.
With more women resisting the role of full-time housewives,
'70s and '80s fathers became more involved in housework
and childcare than ever before.
Dads from all social classes began
to play a more important role in looking after their children.
The life partner that women were
looking for was no longer necessarily the man with
good career prospects that their father would want them to marry.
The old stereotypes were breaking down.
Linda Shanson chose Balou, a blind Indian sitar player
and street musician she met in 1982.
When I was in Paris I fell madly in love
and I'd only known him a month and I was completely besotted with him,
and I thought that my father would be equally besotted with him
and the idea that we were going to get married.
And so, I brought Balou to London
to meet him and the list of attributes that my father
would have wanted for his daughter, I sort of crossed them all out. So, A,
my would-be husband wasn't Jewish.
B, my would-be husband wasn't white, C, my would-be husband wasn't rich
and D, my would-be husband was completely blind.
And to me this was something to celebrate, but my poor father
was in a state of shock really.
By the eighties, some of the stereotypical ideas of masculinity
were fast becoming the stuff of parody.
But some of the old ideas
of what it meant to be a real man remained deeply embedded.
One of them was virility and to be able to father your own children.
So to discover you were infertile could still undermine any man.
Walter and Olivia Merricks desperately wanted a baby.
After all tests on Olivia and then tests on me,
it was discovered that I'm infertile.
Of course, being told that something that you expected to be able to do,
as a man, and that you
now just can't do,
is, there's a heavy sense of something that you're gonna
have to grieve about.
It's like a bereavement, something really that's part of you has died
and, I guess I felt like that.
However, the grief turned to joy when his son was born.
He was the first of two children
Walter and his wife had using donor insemination.
Though Walter wasn't the birth father, the love he felt for his
children couldn't have been greater.
The first thing that happens, you know,
people come round, look at the baby,
"Doesn't he look like you?"
And that's what people say when they look at babies.
Actually people we'd told still went on about this sort of thing.
They knew perfectly well it could not
look like me, and I sort of had to joke about it.
I loved being a dad, I loved it,
you don't have time to mope or think about any of these other things.
You're taken over by the, by just
the natural human love for a baby.
And I was good with babies, I still am good with babies.
Yet in '80s Britain there were still men who embraced
the centuries old values of fatherhood,
none more so than the coal miner.
He was the male breadwinner who for generations had risked his life
to feed and clothe his family.
It was a heroic role still taken seriously by the miners here
in Mardy Deep Pit in South Wales.
But even here the men also aspired to be a new kind of hands-on father.
Brynn Davies was dedicated to looking after his four children,
two of his own and two from his wife's first marriage.
And I've seen the two of the boys here getting born and labour,
she had a bit of a bad time on one of them and, when you hear her
and you see her like that it's emotional,
to see the baby come out then.
And, what they all say is it,
all babies are beautiful. God, I didn't think that at all!
God, they was ugly,
with all the muck and stuff like
that around them, but yeah they was, to put the baby in your arms then is,
God, it's life.
You think you can fly, I think.
is you feel so light on your feet and so, God, so proud.
When they was a couple of months older, it was a bit difficult to
get into first as they're so small you're afraid you're gonna drop them.
But yeah, I fed them
and took them to bed, got up in the mornings to them when they cried,
done my little bit with that.
Getting up then, you're getting up six o'clock, 5.30 for work,
God, you're head is in the shed.
But yeah, that's something that you've gotta do for them.
But the traditional working class family was changing fast,
a change closely tied to the decline of the manufacturing industries that
had supported the male breadwinner.
In place of the old nuclear family came the rise
of the single parent family.
There were over a million of them, some headed by lone fathers.
This new reality was often ignored or frowned upon.
When Charlie Rice's wife, Julia, died, he became a single parent
bringing up his daughter, Bronnie, and his adopted daughter, Ellie.
Bronnie had an accident. She had to have some surgery on her ankle.
This was immediately after Julia had died.
There was I with the consultant in a little hospital room,
so there was him, my daughter and me.
And he was doing some plastic surgery on her ankle.
She had short hair, but she had earrings in either side,
she was wearing a track suit cos that was much
more practical given the fact that she had a big bandage on her ankle.
He said to her, you can go home and tell
your mum what a brave boy you are.
How could he, how could he?
How could that person do that, act so ignorantly to that poor child,
who'd just been brave?
He didn't know whether she was a boy or a girl, and I did not exist.
How could he do it and her mother had just died?
I said to him very calmly, just what I said to you.
Her mum died three weeks ago.
I said in future you only deal with the adult and the
child that you have in front of you.
The new families displayed a refreshing openness and honesty.
There were to be no family secrets, however painful,
for Walter Merricks.
Gradually, when they were really quite young, we told them,
how they were conceived.
It's really only when they get to about seven or eight that
they begin to, they can begin to put
this information in some kind of context and begin to say,
ah, so does that mean that...? Oh, I see yes, yeah, yeah.
But by that time the knowledge has been part of their life
and part of what they, what they know
and, if you ask my kids now,
when they were first told, they just can't remember.
It has just been always part of their life, there was never a moment when
we sat down with them as it were and there was some kind of bolt from the
blue to say, we've got something, some awful news to tell you.
The rise of the gay liberation movement from the seventies onwards
continued to question conventional ideas about men and women,
just as the feminist movement had done before it.
The idea of a gay man being a father still aroused much suspicion
and hostility, made even greater by the new homophobia that arose from
the AIDS crisis in the eighties.
One of those who became aware of the true nature of his sexuality at this
time was single parent Charlie Rice.
He came out, but was careful to only reveal his gay identity
to his close friends and family.
One of the fears I've had about being a gay dad was that people would take
my children from me, because I was gay, purely for that reason.
And so I always made it a big thing that I was not going to
be out there that much.
They knew that I was gay
and their friends would know I was gay if they wanted them to know.
They used it as a cache when
they were at secondary school. They did, they loved it.
But I was never overly demonstrative sexually in front of them, because
it wasn't quite right it didn't seem.
But one night I was with this other chap and I was having a snog
on the front doorstep and Ellie came home with her boyfriend and I
just fell through the door laughing in the end because it's not something
I wanted to happen at all, at all.
Under the Thatcher government of the '80s,
the industrial landscape of Britain
was transformed out of all recognition.
Traditional industries like coal,
steel and shipbuilding were decimated
and whole working class communities vanished in just a few years.
The proud working class father now faced mass unemployment.
The most symbolic defeat of all was that of the miners.
In 1985, the men of Mardy Pit in the Rhondda returned to work after
holding out for 12 months on strike.
One of them was Brynn Davies.
I think going back a lot of people said they was proud to walk
back to work.
I didn't think I was proud to walk back to work because
we was defeated without a doubt.
A lot of people said, no we wasn't defeated. We was.
We'd lost the strike and we knew,
it wouldn't be so long the pits would go, the unions would be smashed,
and which it was.
Five years after the end of the miner's strike it was announced
that Mardy Deep Pit was to close.
For Brynn, filmed here in 1990, the future looked very uncertain.
-Is it beginning to sink in now?
-Yeah, especially you can't get a job,
I don't think I've got the stick in the house all day or walk the streets
or something like that. I think I'll have to get work somewhere.
Can you imagine your wife being the breadwinner?
No, I don't think I'd like that, no.
For Brynn and miners at Mardy, there were jobs to be had but
they were low paid and short term,
not the kind of thing to support a family on.
I always remember coming up the last day in the pit,
a lot of the boys were just talking,
what are we gonna do and what d'you think we're gonna do?
I got to,
into the baths then, getting ready to strip off
and, I think I just can remember just putting my head
in my hands and thinking,
what's now, what's next?
You're thinking, you've got nothing,
and I think it just drains you,
to think that you're not gonna get up tomorrow and work and,
what you're gonna do is...
Like, I'm the man who's supposed to be bringing the money in
and that's what I should be doing.
In the Welsh valleys and in mining communities all over Britain,
a centuries old way of life that revolved around the male breadwinner
was facing extinction.
It was the end of an era.
Brynn and his wife became joint managers of a local bar.
The work meant he was still helping to provide for his children
but in a different way.
The first couple of weeks broke my heart.
It's something I've never done before
and thinking have I done the right thing, have I done the wrong thing?
And it took me I think really about three months really to get into it.
I was used to drinking the beer, not serving it, and, to see some of my
friends on that side and I'd be pulling pints for those and...
..it was a different ball game, yeah.
But despite all the social changes, traditional family ties could still
exert huge emotional power.
Linda Shanson overcame her father's objections to marry Balou,
and like many mixed marriages, it turned out very well.
They have two grown up children and both Linda and Balou became
successful musicians in their own right.
As she grew older, Linda wanted to re-build
the relationship with her father and one of her most precious memories
is singing to him on his death bed.
I chose a song that my mother used to sing and I sang it because
if I sing it in a certain style I sound like my mother.
And I sang this song and I hadn't sung it for years and
I sang it to him and suddenly his face lit up and he lifted himself off
the bed as though with a look of recognition in his face, as though,
my mother was there.
# Down Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv
# In a wonderful morning in May
# It is heaven on Earth you'll agree
# Only a Yiddishe maidlach to see
# Da, da, dada, da, da dada
# Da da dada, da da dada... #
I think of him with me all the time actually, and whenever I perform,
because he always had very strong opinions, you know.
You must have a clear beginning and a clear middle and a clear end to your
performance, and he always had his ideas of how to do things.
And now when I sing, in public, on the stage, I think that he's
there and I have to give it my all for him or he'll be criticising me.
The relationships formed between the new generation of fathers
and their children as they grew older were much more open and equal.
Some fathers and daughters
were becoming like best friends, sharing their social life together.
In the 1990s, gay father Charlie Rice enjoyed
introducing his grown-up daughters to a new world he was discovering.
After they'd sort of both left home I suppose I had my second adolescence,
really. I did go a bit wild and I used to go to Ibiza a lot.
And anyway I'd book this holiday to Ibiza and Bronnie'd just come
back from the States having gone over there to see if she was going to live
there. and things didn't quite work out so she was feeling a bit blue.
So I took her with me to Ibiza, bit the wrong thing to do actually,
cos she cornered into my bit of world again and, she just loved it.
I took her clubbing and so on. It was a changing point for her.
I led her into what was safe to say a youthful culture because I was living
my life again, because it is a huge responsibility having children,
whether you're single or whether two parent family or whatever.
And I think I didn't really have a proper adolescence when I was in
my teens. And then maybe being a dad but slightly younger I had
my adolescence when I was older and I had a great time and they joined in
and we still, and we always have partied together, we always have.
By the 1990s, the new father had become an everyday phenomenon.
No longer the macho man of the past, he was more home based, he spent
quality time with his children, and he began to appear as an
affectionate comic character in adverts like this one.
Dan Gardiner was emblematic of this ideal of the new father.
He was happy to put his career
as a structural engineer on hold to become the full-time carer of
his young children whilst his wife pursued her career as a barrister.
For Dan it was important to forge a deep and lasting
bond with his children.
I decided this is a good opportunity for me to spend time with the kids
while Carrie established herself professionally in
a set of chambers in Bristol. And it seemed like really good timing
for both of those, I could shoulder
the lion's share of looking after the household and looking after the
kids and looking after an ill child while she established herself.
Dan's son suffered from a rare form of immune deficiency.
At least once he came quite close to death,
you know, he sort of flat lined.
We were told by the, by the...
doctors that he'd had sort of temporary organ failure.
I'm not quite sure how that works but, he'd been very, very ill.
And I think it made him very insecure.
He would struggle to get to sleep, he really would struggle to get to
sleep and he would wake up in the middle of the night a lot sort of
with, congested and coughing and whatever and I would go and,
go and lie in his bed with him. And the way he would
get to sleep would be,
me lying on my back and him lying on my chest, we'd be chest to chest.
And that would reassure him and he would go off to sleep.
But if I tried to move even an inch,
or just slightly, slowly try to offload him so that I could go
and get my own sleep he would wake up and he would panic and he would,
he would get very upset and I think he ruined my sleep, basically.
My sleep pattern's never, never recovered after that.
The new father of the '90s was proving that
he could be very successful as the principal carer of young children
but traditional attitudes that mothers were always best meant
there was an institutional bias against fathers taking on this role.
Paul Lawrence became the proud father of his first child, Kareem.
He was a devoted dad but after he and his
partner split up Paul found himself powerless to get the kind of contact
time with his son that he wanted.
What was peculiar for me was that the entire system
didn't seem to support the concept and perhaps even myself that a man
could just parent his child.
So I did what I thought was the right thing, just you know
did everything to make sure that she could, you know, look after my son.
Eventually after a few battles, we had to go to court for access.
When I went to court, I looked at the
judge and I realised that I couldn't win, cos I actually applied for full
custody of my son, I realised I couldn't win because for her,
first of all, it was a stretch for her to imagine that a man
would want custody of his child.
That was the first stretch and, without being racist in the least,
I suspect a 6 foot 3 black man with a beard just didn't fill her picture
of what a father looked like
and our society is more comfortable thinking of children with women.
After a protracted legal battle, Paul was granted an access order
that allowed him to see his son every other weekend.
But the order was sometimes broken by Paul's ex-partner
and he soon discovered there was little he could do about it.
You feel angry.
I felt angry because I was thinking to myself,
well, hold on a second, I've fulfilled my requirements.
You know, we had gone to court, the court said that I should have my son.
All you have to do is bring him to the door at 7 o'clock on a Friday,
and you choose not to do that.
You choose not to do that because you know there's nothing I can do.
Monday morning I will write to a solicitor, ring a solicitor, but
in reality there's nothing I can do.
Dan Gardiner's life was also turned upside down
after his wife had an affair.
The divorce that followed was part of a new trend
in which women initiated more marriage break-ups than men.
Even though Dan was the children's main carer, suddenly his position
in the family seemed under threat.
In spite of having done the kind of egalitarian sort of equal
roles within the partnership and, and family thing, when everything
was in such turmoil emotionally with me I, I kind of reverted to type.
I kind of not reverted to type, I reverted to the traditional role,
the man's traditional role, that somehow the mother
has a right to the family home in a way that the man doesn't.
Although he moved out of the family home,
the risk of losing his children soon focused Dan's mind.
It was non-negotiable for me that,
that we should have equal sharing in the lives of our kids.
Carrie's initial assumption was that she would of course get the kids,
which I resisted right from the outset.
I was, I was possibly a bit cruel, actually.
When she suggested that, my instant reaction was,
well actually I've been looking after the kids, I think any court
would let me have the kids.
And I think that spooked her.
So that brought her round
very quickly to the idea of having 50/50 care arrangement.
A new generation of fathers
whose marriages split up were now demanding shared parenting rights.
This was rarely achieved because the courts preferred
the children to live with one of the parents, usually the mother.
The change from hands-on father with a day-to-day caring role,
to weekend dad, was hugely painful.
Matt O'Connor was a loving dad with two young sons.
When his marriage broke up he saw how the legal system turned partners
against each other, aggravating every grievance and denying him
his role as a loving father.
I went from seeing my children every day,
to seeing them in a contact centre, for what a judge described
as a cooling off period.
Which was profoundly distressing, not just for me, I think for the kids,
because you're at home one minute and you're sitting in front of
the TV and you're, you're watching bloody Jar Jar Binks and Star Wars.
And the next minute you're in this cold,
inhospitable landscape of Formica chairs that are broken and toys that
are broken, being watched by sort of three people sitting at a table.
And a welfare officer came up to me when I was with the kids, who
I hadn't seen for a period of time, and he started asking me questions in
front of the children. I was like, I've not seen my children.
So you struggle,
to get by.
Matt abandoned the court system and came to a friendly arrangement
with his ex-wife so he could have regular access to his children.
Then in 2001, Matt formed Fathers 4 Justice
to bring the plight of fathers like himself into the public eye.
They soon made the headlines
with dramatic protests in which divorced dads
dressed up as comic book superheroes and scaled famous public buildings.
Guys, put your super suits on, right,
down a fancy dress shop, get a ladder, go, and that was it.
It's when people say why do you do these things, why do you subsequently
go off and start a campaign? I went off and started a campaign because
the law wasn't being enforced, the court orders weren't being enforced,
the law is farcical and grotesque and abusive to all the participants who
go into the system, including the mums, but most of all children.
Divorced fathers clung to the smallest rituals that
bonded them with their children.
For Paul Lawrence it was the weekend visit to the barber's shop,
where his son's haircut took on added emotional significance.
As my son grew up,
you know, one of the things certainly every dad likes to have
is the little Saturday, certainly if you're a black guy,
go down the barber shop, everybody's talking stories,
not really telling the truth, but it's a father son thing.
And one Saturday he said, no, don't want my hair cut.
I had an inkling as to why because I knew that she had gotten together,
that's my ex-wife, gotten together with a gentleman
who wore his hair in plaits.
And, so I had an inkling that that's why, but I didn't want
to play that game, I didn't want to play the blame game,
so I said, OK, I can't stop you.
So he had his hair in plaits for a number of years.
That was a major defeat, it was a major defeat to see my son
reflecting somebody else.
You know, let's take ego out of this, let's take me not liking
the guy out of this, let's just stick with the basics which is,
there was my son, my child,
reflecting the look of somebody else, someone who had just come
into his life, but obviously was having such an enormous impact
and that hurt, that hurt because that's not what I wanted,
you know, what every dad wants is for his son to look like him.
But Paul didn't give up.
He joined the 100 Black Men of London.
Their special mission was to help young Afro-Caribbean boys.
Through this work, he eventually won back
the respect from his son that he wanted.
I got involved with a group called the 100 Black Men at the time,
whose main mandate was looking after young black kids in the community
specifically with an eye towards
the boys and that I think was a great experience for me, because aside from
just the normal stuff that you get when you say, you know, the man who
you get when you become a dad, they provided me with more insight
into stuff like mentoring, into working with young people.
And I've got to admit I took a lot of that
on board with working with my son.
Then came the day when Kareem had his plaits cut off.
It was great for me because now I saw my son reflecting,
yes, selfishly, values which I felt were very, very important.
And now, knowing that you know
something like I'm back the main man, you know, and that's what it's about,
I make no apologies for wanting to be the main man in my son's life.
No, not till after your dinner, I've told you "no".
With the divorce rate at an all-time high,
family break ups were hugely disruptive to children's lives.
This was further complicated
when the parents went on to form new relationships and marriages.
The 1990s heralded a new era of step-parenting.
By then, one in eight of all children
were growing up in a step-family.
There was no more difficult situation for a step-dad
than to be regarded by the children as Mum's toy boy.
When Edison Johnson got married, he was seven years younger
than his wife, Beverley, and he faced the difficult prospect
of becoming step-dad to her three children.
There were times when I decided not to come home,
and to take a second journey round the block.
Or I just sat in the car when I got home, sometimes before,
took a, kind of, deep breath and come in the house, you know?
I found it pretty delicate and so I did spare a thought
for what might be going through their minds, all the time.
And I always thought that way, "I wonder if they're OK with that,
"is that OK?" and I might ask my wife sometimes.
But I didn't find her very useful on that level.
I thought, "Right, I'm going to just make a decision."
And nine times out of 10, if I just settled myself down,
it wasn't as bad as what I thought it would be.
Or, all the things I was thinking it might be, it wasn't.
Edison gradually won the affection and respect
of his wife's three children,
but when he and Beverly decided they wanted their own child,
he wasn't sure how he would cope with becoming a father himself.
I looked at the baby and it didn't look as bad as I thought,
cos I think babies don't actually look nice when they're first born.
But, as anything, I think they're... I think it's...
Your baby looks nice to you when it's born.
So it was beautiful, he's beautiful,
he's absolutely gorgeous,
I held him in my arms, and he was pretty chilled and relaxed, really,
he wasn't fussed, or anything like that.
And then, it was busy, you know, changing diapers,
what's the big deal?
Feeding babies, what's the big deal?
I literally took... I was looking after that baby...
When she fell asleep I took the baby off the breast,
looked after the baby for myself and then put the baby to bed,
made sure the baby was washed, cleaned
and done all of that stuff easily.
So by the time he's got his own character,
and he's literally staring at me as I walk across that room,
that's when I think to myself, "Nah, is he looking at me?"
Are you with me? That's when it starts to look good, you know?
Matt O'Connor re-married,
had a new son and became step-dad to his second wife's daughter.
It was a very modern and happy family.
But his commitment to Fathers4Justice
remained as strong as ever.
What sort of person is going to say,
"Actually, you know what? We don't need fathers."
What sort of person is going to say,
"Well, we know we're going to put you through eight years or 10 years
"of going through the family justice system,
"bankrupt the family - emotionally and economically,
"with no resolution."
It's a fundamentally abusive system.
What we're saying is, "Right, you can't necessarily go back
"to the traditional nuclear family, but the most important thing is -
"the maths is simple, two parents are better than one."
And that's what I believe in.
After separation or, yeah, hopefully, if you're together,
that's even better. But if it has to be after separation,
retain the love and care of both parents
and never ever hate your ex more than you love your children.
Fathers have come a long way in the last hundred years.
Most modern dads want to enjoy
an intimate relationship with their children from the beginning.
And breaking the bond with their children
is something they are less inclined to accept than before.
Fathers in history have often been stereotyped as remote,
distant and uncaring figures.
But across a hundred years of change,
encompassing a social and sexual revolution,
they've enjoyed much closer and more important relationships
with their children than has previously been thought.
Those who did, have enriched their own lives. On the way,
changing attitudes and making new lives possible for their children.
Laeeq and Farhat Khan are now proud grandparents
and are happy with the new life they made in Britain.
Our birthdays come, we look forward to them, and any excuse to celebrate,
any excuse to kiss. I mean, I still kiss them.
I still kiss them in front of their wives.
I don't... It doesn't deter me.
It's my son and those are my grandchildren.
So that's my life,
that's my happiness.
Rashid re-established close contact with his children
when he returned to Britain, and now has a large extended family.
They've given me unconditional love.
They've given me unconditional love.
Dan Gardiner and his ex-wife are now on friendly terms,
and together, they've created new and lasting relationships
with their children.
I've always wanted to be really good friends with my kids, you know?
I'm not sure I had that with my dad, but I had it a bit with my dad,
but when it came to me having my kids it was...
They were so funny and they were such nice people
that I just wanted to be their friends as well as being their dad.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Three-part series which tells the story of the revolution in modern fatherhood in Britain during the last hundred years. Using intimate testimony, rare archive and the latest historical research it reveals the very important, and often misunderstood, role played by fathers.
The final episode reveals how the experience of being a father was transformed between the 1960s and the present day and looks at the lives of a fascinating cross-section of fathers from all walks of life over the past fifty years.
The modern hands-on father has a more intimate relationship with his children than the past, but the sexual revolution and feminism has also made fathers more insecure than ever before. Modern divorce laws have excluded fathers from family life and from the access they want to their children. The anguish felt by many dads was expressed in the Fathers 4 Justice protest movement.