While men may be privileged in the context of paid work (for example receiving often, on average, more pay than women in equivalent roles) they may be invisible in their role as fathers. Research shows that many fathers (both married/co-habiting and post-divorce) need and desire to spend more time with children, and are often directly involved with childcare. There have been significant shifts in social understandings about fathers’ roles in relation to families and hands-on childcare. Yet organisations still tend to position men as economic providers first, and as fathers second. Research on men and work-life balance shows that fathers are often excluded from organisational initiatives offering flexible and family friendly working, due to line managers’ assumptions that men neither need, nor desire, to access such opportunities. Research on fathers and employment demonstrates how employed men are treated first and foremost as workers. Therefore in their role as fathers, men often feel invisible. Those men who do insist on prioritising childcare over paid work can face incomprehension, if not direct hostility, from line managers and colleagues. As a result, some men feel the need to be discreet about their responsibilities as fathers: hence they are “invisible” in the paternal role.
Simon Kuper writing in the FT in December 2010 describes the thirty hours childcare he undertakes each week as a “secret life”.