Kindertagesstätten (Kitas) are putting more and more thought into how fathers can be better addressed, reached and have long-standing involvement. Rainbowtrekkers is the first body in Cologne to have built its own programme for dads using its own personnel resources so that they can be more actively involved in Kita life.
Fathers are less present than mothers in Kitas for varying reasons, for example, due to gendered and private division or work. Due to the previous involvement of their own parents, many fathers don't feel adequately addressed, or feel out of place or not at ease due to the lesser presence of men at Kita.
The societal expectation of fatherhood or fatherliness and family have changed massively in the past few decades. Many fathers want a stronger or equal involvement in the raising of their children beyond the role of breadwinner. Related to this is the changing and reproduced images of fatherhood, manliness and family. Unfortunately however, these changes are characterised by inconsistencies: There's a large gap in this case between what is wanted and what is reality. One the one hand, it's clear that it will be a long process until reinforced gender roles actually change. On the other hand, fathers who want to be more dedicated to their family, who desire part-time work or parental leave in their employment, are constantly faced with resistance and a lack of understanding.
Despite the wish of many couples for a gender-equal division of upbringing and housework, after the birth of the first child, the shift tends to be back towards a traditionalisation of the division of work in the family. What does fatherhood look like beyond the traditional breadwinner role? How can fathers be seen and strengthened in their upbringing, caring and consoling competences beyond these images of masculinity?
Research regarding fathers and fatherhood has increased in recent years. The meaning of a father for children is also being discussed more. Psychoanalytical approaches emphasise the meaning of the father in the development of the child, especially with regard to relieving the mother and the development of autonomy from the second year of a child's life.
But even here we see stereotypical images of masculinity, that the father is almost purely seen as the liberator of the child from the emotional and physical dependence to the mother, and as the one who supports the autonomous behaviour of the child; the one with risky play etc. The functions of caring and consoling and the meaning of the father for infants have been long hidden.
This assumed approach to family life, however, is changing and new work in relationship research is being carried out. After the mother being seen as the most important person for the child, the father is being increasingly acknowledged as an important caregiver, and even as the primary caregiver. There is also evidence that alongside working fathers, working mothers also display and engage in risky play and activities. In this respect, other social factors and family arrangements, and not necessarily the gender of the parent, shape the social interaction with the child. Many father studies emphasise a “different” kind of relationship between fathers and their children, which unfortunately only serves to reproduce unchallenged gender stereotypes. Although fathers are being seen as more important for their children, there is still a great lack of alternate examples and role models that show anything apart from the father being “different” from the mother.
Kitas are looking for a strengthened presence of fathers in the raising of children and are therefore also increasing the possibilities and methods in order to support and integrate fathers more in their work and Kita life. The educational partnership of the Kita and the child's parents/caregivers is an integral part of the work in Kitas. Fathers are seen as a part of the familial system and their educational function should be reinforced.
Considering the diversity of fathers, what could be offered to fathers in Kitas that would make sense? Fathers can be single parents or live separately from the child, they can be employed or unemployed, conservative or alternative. Some children don't even have a father any more, or don't have contact to him. Or they have a 'social' father. Some children live in patchwork arrangements or in a rainbow family, without, or with one or with two fathers. Kitas have, in this regard, and especially in major cities, a lot to do with a vast mixture of parents with various values. An especially particular challenge is presented when we consider all of these factors along with the involvement of fathers.
At rainbowtrekkers our own Daniel K. looks after our father program. He organises regular events for fathers (or stepfathers or grandfathers) and children. The events take place on weekends or evenings, in order to make attendance for working fathers possible.
Daniel is a native English speaker and comes from California. He has a degree in Fine Arts and has decades of experience as an English teacher of various age groups, and as a High School teacher. He is the father of Eliot (born in 2015).