Ode to Red Pepper

Every Wednesday for the last four years, I have wrestled my tiny humans into waterproofs and made our weekly pilgrimage to, what can only be described as, parental utopia.

Run by the wonderful Robyn, The Red Pepper Project is essentially a gardening club for minis, set in the gorgeous grounds of an organic farm. But it’s so much more than just gardening. Come rain, wind or high weather, the Red Pepper glitterati are out in force. From carefree summer days spent running around eating delicious treats foraged from the raised beds, to seeking refuge from the rain in the tropical poly tunnel.  When asked, I refer to Red Pepper as holy ground.

I have always made the best Mum friends at Ped pepper. Like minded, hardy individuals, who value fresh air, delicious cake and good coffee. But over the past year, there’s been a shift. There has been a rise of the lesser spotted, Red Pepper Dad. 

But on closer inspection, these are not just any Dads, these are in fact vet dads! And they don’t just show up, they’re crushing it. They play, they plant, they plait hair, they wipe noses (and bums) and have exponentially improved my Red Pepper experience. 

News has spread about the joys of Red Pepper around the vet practices of the county. We now have small animal director vet dads, team GB equine vet dads, farm vet dads and even a team GB farrier dad to boot. In fact, we’re pretty well set up for most animal related emergencies within our little organic gardening haven.

Pic: Everything gets very thoroughly watered.
Raspberries on tap
Tree Climbing Essentials

It’s a common misconception that flexible working within the veterinary profession is reserved for women juggling family life. In fact, since 2010, the largest increase in those requesting flexible working has been in men. In the past 13 years, the number of men requesting flexible working has more than doubled from 8% to 17%. Whereas the number of women requesting flexible working has remained fairly constant. (BVA, 2022)

Did you know that a recent study found that fathers who worked flexibly were more likely to take on caring responsibilities? The 4-day week pilot, 2022 studied 2900 people, from 61 companies, across different industries over 6 months. It revealed that the time men spent looking after children increased by more than double that of women (27% to 13%) when they adopted a 4-day week. (4-day week, 2022)

Unfortunately, the same wasn’t true regarding the share of housework, baby steps, eh?

The Government’s equality office’s behavioural insights team found that although equal numbers of men and women wanted to work flexibly to spend more time with their children, men were less likely to do so. 

In their study, they investigated the influence of social norms on behavioural change. They found that simply by telling men that the majority of their male colleagues supported parental leave for fathers, they boosted the intention to take longer leave by 62%! 

Other positive outcomes were that high levels of support for men to work flexibly, encouraged other men to plan to work flexibly in the future. It also increased men’s support for other men to do the same. A wonderful positive Daddy Daycare feedback loop. 

Until we live in a world where it’s celebrated for men to share caring responsibilities, we will never have an even playing field for all.

Are you a father working flexibly? Fly the flag for flexible working. Normalise it. Talk about it in the pub. Attend a playgroup during your non-work day. And in doing so, you’ll cultivate a culture where future fathers in your practice feel it’s socially acceptable for them to do the same.

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