While things may now seem bleak, there are little silver linings to be found in the COVID-19 crisis. According to a research report by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, coronavirus lockdown measures are bringing fathers closer to their children.
The foundation, together with Intensions Consulting, asked 1,019 Canadian fathers about the effect of the lockdown on their lives, and their role in the family through an online survey.
According to the report, 60% of fathers reported feeling closer to their children, and 70% mentioned having more quality time with their children.
Among those surveyed, 28% realized that they missed out a lot on their children’s lives. One 35-year-old father of two from Ontario who expressed this sentiment shared, “I’m used to not being at home with my family, now that I am working from home I love being with my kids. My son is two and he watches me Aeropress and I talk about the physics behind it. My daughter smiles at me from her crib and in my arms. I was missing out on too much until now.”
One respondent, despite having lost his source of income reported that he was spending better time during the lockdown. “As a previously self-employed person, I no longer feel the need to constantly check email, answer phone calls at all hours, and am experiencing way less stress. I spend more time with the kids. Whether this will continue if I don’t find work I do not know,” the 42-year-old father of two from British Columbia mentioned.
Another respondent noted that he might never have this much time with his children again, for the rest of his career. “By the time I retire they will have their own lives established and not have the time to spend with me understandably,” said the 36-year-old father of three from Saskatchewan.
In conjunction with the online survey, The Men’s Initiative (TMI) also conducted virtual focus group discussions with 45 fathers from around Canada.
Prior to the pandemic, the participants mentioned that they barely had time for their families, and that their lives were only lived in parallel with one another. Fathers spent their time on long workdays and long commutes, while children were busy with their studies and extracurricular activities.
This is a stark contrast to how these fathers spent time during the lockdown, where they reported having more meals together with their families, and spending quality time with their children on hobbies, games, and other activities.
“Many of the respondents said that family life during the pandemic was like what they imagined it to be before becoming a father,” said TMI founder Dr. John Izzo.
According to TMI, fathers who are engaged with their families have children who are more socially adjusted, do better at school, and have a bright outlook on life. Experts also note that sharing meals as a family is an important opportunity to build connections, and can have a positive influence on the mental health, nutritional choices, and academic performance of children.
Having reaped the benefits of spending more time with their children, the majority of respondents expressed their reluctance to go back to the “old normal”. Nearly have said they want to be more involved as a father and have consciously decided to be more engaged as a father in the future.
Many of these fathers are worried about going back to their previous routines away from their children, and are seeking more work-life balance. Participants from both studies expressed a desire to create a better future where priorities are shifted, and where there is increased time and engagement with their families.