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JACK-OF-ALL-TRADES FATHER IS PRICELESS.

Byline: By DAVID WILLIAMSON Western Mail

Fathers would be paid pounds 318,000 a year if they started charging for their services, a report just out claims. Each year they save their families a small fortune by being an unpaid chauffeur, teacher, mechanic, handyman and paramedic, according to banking giant Lloyds TSB.

Researchers worked out how much it would cost to hire professionals to cook barbecues, solve homework crises and keep computers online.

This light-hearted study concludes that fathers should be earning pounds 36 an hour, and contrasts with a more serious investigation into how much women would be paid if wages were given for housework and childcare. The research by ICM found that the average working mum would be paid an additional pounds 324 a week for their services to their family.

Matt O'Connor, one of the founders of controversial parents' rights group Fathers 4 Justice, said the latest findings illustrated how dads were undervalued by society.

He said, 'Between a quarter to a third of all childcare is provided by fathers.'

On Father's Day the group will stage a mass rally in London at which they will lobby government to create a more flexible workplace to allow fathers to play a greater role in parenting.

He said, 'Both mums and dads are working harder and longer. Both are providing very significant roles.

'Fifty per cent of the workforce are now women so you have this blurring of the traditional roles so that is why more and more fathers are having a hands-on role in the raising of their children.'

Mr O'Connor said he expected society to change to allow both men and women to more easily balance the demands of work and parenting but that it would take several years.

He said, 'This Government in particular has undervalued the significance of parents and parenthood.

'They view children as individuals rather than as part of a family unit and that's a monumental error.'

Experts have long debated whether fathers are bonded with social or biological ties to their children.

Dr Marion Kloep, Reader of Psychology at the University of Glamorgan, believes that the close relationship many fathers have with their offspring is powered by modern culture rather than genetics.

She said, 'I would say most of it is cultural.

'In former times fathers reared children all over the place but fortunately now they are present at the birth of their child and have the same bonding experience of the mother.'

Dr Kloep said it was not essential for a father to be the biological parent of a baby to bond with it.

'It's the characteristics of the child that makes parents bond with them,' she said.

'We react to the big face and round eyes and the sweet smell.'

She predicted that the relationship between fathers and their children will become stronger over the next century.

'For a long time children were an economic investment and not an emotional investment,' she said.

'Now women are in the workplace we only have children for the emotional factor because they will not look after us in our old age - on the contrary, we may have to look after children.

'I think [men] will become much more emancipated as fathers, while more and more women will see the 'burden' part of it.'

Dr Kloep said she expected Britain would follow the examples of Scandinavian countries where fathers regularly take lengthy periods of parental lead to help care for their son or daughter.

She said, 'That has led to some fathers understanding how fun it is to see your child growing up.

'It's not unusual to hear a father saying, 'I have to leave the meeting because I have to pick up my child from school'.'

A spokesman for Help the Aged said that grandparents were another group provided essential and unpaid care for children which made it possible for many people to stay in the workplace.

He said, 'The amount of unpaid care which the older person provides, either in a grandparental role or caring in a partnership is making a huge contribution to the way our society carries on functioning, but it does go largely unrecognised.'

Cardiff taxi-driver Kevin Millward, 45, scoffed at the notion that a financial value could be put on fatherhood.

He has two children, Laura, six, and Huw, nine.

Mr Millward said, 'It's priceless, mate. The more you give your kids, the more they give back.'

While the Dragon Taxis driver did not begrudge them his chauffeur duties, he did have some advice for men on the verge of fatherhood.

'Get as much sleep as you can because you are not going to get much afterwards,' he said. 'Just enjoy it.': All in a day's work for man about the house:Modern dads are expected to do much more than hunt mammoths and gather berries for their offspring. The roles demanded by contemporary fatherhood - and the prices they could charge according to the survey, include:

Family BBQs and parties - pounds 16,880

Buying and serving drinks - pounds 12,129

Helping with homework/reading stories - pounds 32,448 (secondary schools)

Fetching and carrying to and from social events - pounds 16,343

Lending money fordays at amusementparks, going to the zoo, covering the cost of weddings, cars and general cash handouts - pounds 44,134

Stepping in when things go wrong - pounds 17,642

Helping to buy and maintain first car,bicycles, go-carts, etc - pounds 20,181

Rushing kids to hospital, fixing bumps, cuts and bruises - pounds 23,816

Shoulder to cry on when split from first girlfriend, go on first date - pounds 22,365

Helping you learn how to swim, play football, build sand castles - pounds 15,532

Replacing batteries in toys, gluing broken toys together, building climbing frames - pounds 21,517

Teaching how to use the internet and play games - pounds 35,760 Organising activities and taking messages from friends - pounds 39,696
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 15, 2004
Words:985
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