Monday 20 May 2019

The daddy's girl has no place in a modern family

Don't forget all the rainbow families with two mothers or two fathers or the single parents, writes Sophie Donaldson

Don’t forget all the rainbow families with two mothers or two fathers or the single parents. Picture posed
Don’t forget all the rainbow families with two mothers or two fathers or the single parents. Picture posed
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

Of all the things you might expect to be on the rise in 2018 - veganism, smart fridges, female rage - the daddy's girl might not be it.

According to a report released by the Office of National Statistics in the UK, there has been a 10pc increase in the number of daughters who speak to their father about important matters more than once a week, rising from 35pc in 2009 to 45pc in 2017.

This increasing number of paternal confidantes is being put down to the fact that fathers have become more involved in day-to-day family life and child rearing.

Where once they were expected to be the bread winners who were disengaged from the emotional side of parenting, it is suggested that this is no longer the case.

While this is a nice sentiment, it doesn't explain a significant difference in parenting styles over the past 10 years.

Certainly, parenting has evolved tenfold in the past few decades, but the approachable, emotionally astute fathers of today aren't that different to their 2009 counterparts (give or take the odd man-bun).

Perhaps girls are confiding in their fathers more because of the world around them, rather than life at home.

In 2009, I can personally attest to the fact that teenagers were glued to social media. Yes, teenagers in 2018 are too, but back then it was a far more thrilling experience.

It was new, for one thing, and considerations such as data and privacy were eclipsed by the fact you could talk to anyone, anywhere in the world, whenever you wanted.

MySpace and Bebo had faded in the distance as Facebook and Twitter came to the fore. Tumblr served as a brutally honest open diary, where shared teenage angst among anonymous users formed fierce bonds.

Why confide in a parent when you had the world at your fingertips?

Social media was also particularly alluring for teenagers because our parents were not yet on it. Whereas most parents now use some form of social media, back then it was very much the domain of the young.

In the age of the mummy blogger, and when your auntie insists on tagging you in those inspirational quotes clogging your newsfeed, social media isn't quite what it used to be for teenagers.

Today's teenagers have a very different relationship with it. They are keenly aware of its detriments and often reject mainstream platforms like Facebook.

While they have never known a world without the internet, they also value face-to-face interaction more than millennials did at their age.

The reasoning behind these statistics positions today's fathers as some kind of woke generation of 'cool dads'.

If this all sounds kind of familiar, that's because it is; for decades, sociologists and psychologists have analysed shifting roles within the family dynamic. While we may still be fighting for equal pay and paternal leave, parents have long discarded those rigid gender roles when it comes to raising kids.

If we are to talk about modern family arrangements, then how about we discard the notion of the daddy's girl altogether? For the increasing number of rainbow families, in which there are two mothers or two fathers, or single-parent families, this type of language seems more a throwback to the past rather than an accurate representation of how we live now.

Likewise, to call a young male a 'mummy's boy' has always been rife with negative connotation (except, of course, if it is the beaming mother herself that dubs him so). The implication here is that to have even a close proximity with femininity, let alone display any such traits yourself, is to be considered less of a male.

Another popular school of thought is that a father's bond (or lack thereof) with his daughter will shape all future relationships she has with other men - daddy issues, anyone?

This can certainly be the case but equally, a mother's relationship with her daughter (or son) is just as influential. Daughters who have a negative relationship, or no contact at all, with their fathers are still capable of forming healthy bonds with the other men in her life.

Perhaps all of this comes down to personality and not gender. Perhaps the calm, objective advice often delivered by dads is reflective of the fact that men have typically been the calm, objective parent.

As society continues to evolve and gender becomes less definitive, we may find that daughters confide in their father not because he is a man, but because he is a good person.

Sunday Independent

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