A year ago we decided to make a show about our dads. Specifically about the father – daughter relationship. And about Blair. And about Clinton playing the sax. And about Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in the 1990s.
But let’s put those last three references to one side for a moment (maybe how they link with father-daughter relationships will become clear in the show).
When the brilliant Arc Stockton invited us to spend a week with them developing the show, we wanted to conduct some research with real dads. To find out what it’s like being a father. How is fatherhood seen in society? Do they get enough support? Are dads valued? Do men know the importance of being a dad? We were also really keen to find out how fatherhood has changed in the last fifty years with more women working.
Over the course of our residency at Arc, we ran a series of workshops and drop ins with local dads to ask them these questions. We were overwhelmed by the response. So many men said the same thing: that the moment of birth was almost a lonely one; some said they felt inadequate, overwhelmed, and weirded out. A lot of the men we spoke to agreed that they needed more support in the run-up-to and after the birth of their child; but that asking for help didn’t feel right. There aren’t things like a dads-net, for example. They all agreed that being a dad is life-changing and incredibly important, but it’s a role that men can be opted out of if they wanted to. They also said that responsible fatherhood is about being conscious and constant.
We also showed them a series of images of dads: the kind you’d see on greetings cards or in adverts: dads getting angry teaching a driving lesson; dads pulling a proud face as they walk their daughter down the aisle; dads sitting in an armchair with a pint in hand, farting away like an old git. These images were absolutely hilarious in their two-dimensionality, but something about their crudeness reveals how one-note society’s ideas about fatherhood are.
The best thing about the sessions was when participants shared their feelings about being a dad together with other dads. Offering a space for dads to share experiences felt like an obvious, really simple thing to do. We’re not sure if it’s the answer, but it’s something that could run everywhere to help men feel more supported.
More than that, it was clear that the idea of fatherhood needs some fresh thinking. As society evolves, it feels like fatherhood is stuck. Perhaps we all need to reimagine what being a dad should mean in 2015. That way both men and women will feel more confident and happy – and we’ll all have a better time.
N.B: We’re obsessed with this video which may well be the best depiction of fathers and daughters in society. No, it’s not King Lear or the Tempest or even Armageddon. It’s Nicole et Papa. Enjoy!