Caring dads? Proud posers, more like

Men who flaunt their domestic responsibility gain brownie points at work – but for women it’s a different story

The school summer holidays are in full flow. Even if you don’t have children, you’re sure to be only too painfully aware of this. Why? Because many of your colleagues with children have no doubt cancelled meetings, rescheduled events or have been leaving the office well before home-time. I can sympathise. The same thing is common in my workplace during school holidays. It’s not the women who behave like this, though. It’s the men. It is only too common for male workmates of mine to declare, with a distinct air of virtue, that meetings have to be rearranged and deadlines extended “because of childcare obligations”.

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The Chains of Childhood

The debate about childhood should focus on something more specific than the pros and cons of modern life.

It is tempting to dismiss yesterday’s letter to a national newspaper from 110 leading experts on childhood as a wail of nostalgia, or as Dave Hill put it, a reflection clouded by “banks of wistful cumuli”. After all, their chosen paper was the Daily Telegraph. And the list of causes included most aspects of modern life: junk food, sedentary based entertainment, lack of interaction with real significant adults and lack of time. But it is interesting how few people, including Dave Hill, are dismissing the letter in its entirety. The massive media response shows that the frustrations behind it are widespread.

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When love hurts

Men now want and expect more parental responsibility – but have they changed enough to handle it?

The death of four little boys killed by their father will be every separated woman’s nightmare. Those strong enough to read the details of how Keith Young drove his sons to a remote spot and poisoned them in his car will have been chilled. Not by how extreme Keith Young’s behaviour was – although it was – but by how much of the situation sounded like the ordinary stuff of a bitter divorce. Maybe they will be asking: is it ever safe to allow angry men to have sole contact with their children?

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Thank God that’s over

Half-term is hell – parents and children need proper summer holidays, not odd weeks off

School holidays, especially half-term ones, are one of this society’s great unrecognised sources of inequality. For a few parents, today will be the first day back at work after one of the many unofficial holidays they now take. This half-term will probably have been spent in the UK but in February they, like Geoff Hoon, are likely to have been skiing. In October they will probably have a late holiday in the Mediterranean or a city break in Europe. Their kids, lured by the change of scenery or exotic venues, won’t be too difficult.

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Milly’s fearful legacy

Along with grief about the death of Milly Dowler has come anger. Anger that any family has to go through such suffering, and especially that such an ordinary loving family should be robbed in this terrible way. There’s another anger too, expressed by residents of Milly’s home town, that a young girl was not safe walking home from school in broad daylight.

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For much of the19th century, childhood was often short and brutish, and the young treated merely as small adults. And now? Continuing Weekend’s comprehensive review of our century, we look at the changing attitudes to life’s beginners

Is there a history of childhood in the 20th century? The lives of children have, after all, been as socially and psychologically varied as those of their parents. Yet some changes have completely transformed expectations for the early years of life. Indeed, childhood as we understand it was invented this century. Now, we view childhood as a prolonged and protected phase with considerable rights and consumer powers.

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