Ukraine following the global trend of responsible fatherhood

13 March 2020

8 out of 10 elderly men regret having given too little time and attention to their children. But how to give more? In this article, we will share with you how to become a more engaged dad right away.

Who is a real dad - is it the one who makes money and provides for his family? That's the idea of 65% of Ukrainian dads, according to the UNFPA survey. About the same number of men claim that changing diapers is exclusively woman’s business. Such beliefs often result in a baby growing up under the care of a mother, while dad is perceived as a visitor who walks with them on weekends. But is it enough for a child to spend a couple of hours with dad? Is it enough for the dad himself? A preoccupied dad loses the opportunity to watch his children grow and actively participate in their life. As a result, in a few years, he may not find common ground with his teenager or, even worse, be reproachfully addressed to with the words like "where have you been before with your advice and guidance"? Therefore, it's recommendable to become an involved dad from the first days of your baby's life.

“The first three years of baby’s life are critically important. It is on the equal participation of dad and mother that his future confidence and success depend. You also set an example of a proper relationship”, says Natalia Koshovska, a program analyst at the United Nations Population Fund.

How to achieve this? By taking initiative in caring for a child and knowing his or her friends, teacher, and pediatrician. By taking an interest in your kid's life and showing it even if you can't be around all the time. Everyone is able now to keep in touch at least by means of the phone. So wherever you are, use it. Even the busiest dads know that the emotions of communicating with their child are not comparable to anything they can experience during a work meeting.

Family is about equal participation in your partner's life, collective decision making and upbringing children, and by doing it together you'll find these duties twice as easy, that's what the creators of the social project for married couples “4 Hands Happiness" state. This does not necessarily mean a clear-cut distribution of family responsibilities like “you look after children on Tuesdays and I will on Saturdays”. It is rather about the ability to negotiate and be flexible. For example, the wife cooks dinner, and the husband offers to wash up. Another option: the husband takes the children for a walk after work allowing his wife to relax. Such compromises benefit all family members and make marriage stronger.

Ideas for dads

Last year, Ukraine launched trainings and grant opportunities for community leaders to create communities for dads. This initiative will be continued this year. The goal is to help Ukrainian dads spend more quality time with their children thus building strong and trusting relationships with them. These communities are created under the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme implemented by four UN agencies: the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The programme is supported by eleven international partners: the European Union, the European Investment Bank, as well as the governments of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Japan.

Globally, there is already a number of success stories of such dads' communities. For example, the so-called "Daddy-Gym" in the neighboring Belarus. It is virtually nothing else but a playground of closed type. That is, the kids play in the gym. Interestingly, moms are strictly forbidden. It's time and space exclusively for dads and their little ones. The project started as an idea and has grown into a nation-wide movement.

In Ukraine, there are similar examples of sport uniting dads and children. A parent club in Kyiv holds one-day football tournaments for children and their dads to play in mixed teams. Goals scored by dads don't count. Thus, it is not that much about competitions between teams (or dads), but rather about the joint activities of adults and their children. After all, you can not only kick ball around with dads, but also dance. Like during the "Dancing with Dad" flash mob organized by the United Nations Population Fund on the occasion of Father's Day. What about cycling or walking? Hiking or fishing? All of these activities can be shared with your child. And they will be grateful for this experience.

In the United States, the “Dads, Take Your Child to School Day” initiative has been successfully running for 13 years by now. Thus, dads are encouraged not only to take their children to school but also to get involved in their school life. The UNFPA in Ukraine invites dads to give lessons for their child's class, talk about their work or hobby, or have breakfast together. By the end of this year, these ideas will have been implemented in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Since 2020, the Foundation will be helping with fathers' communities in other oblasts of Ukraine.

Dad's attention is invaluable to the child. Likewise, spending time with their children is priceless for dads. Natalia Koshovska points out:

“If you, as a father, want to become an important figure in your child's life, it is worth doing from the very first moments of their life. Don't wait until your baby grows up. Even if dads among your friends spend little time with their kids at the moment, it should not preclude you from spending more quality time with your baby. You can become the first "icebreaker" whose role model other dads will follow.

Learn more about the #SuperDadCan! campaign by UNFPA Ukraine: sexual education, child support, psychological aspects of fatherhood, and first aid. Read more here.