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Parenting - What Did Cavemen Do?

Mothers have always worked. It is not a modern phenomenon, believe it or not!

Cavemen hunting for meat could never bring in enough calories for their families to survive on and foraging was always essential. In a nutshell, everyone helped get the food, including the mums!

For most of human history we have lived in extended families and mothers have shared the care of children with others within their families. Raising children takes a lot of effort and a long time – by sharing this around, human beings have thrived.

Mothers have mostly shared the care with other women in their families, but again and again in history these women have been in short supply and men have been pulled in. Sometimes men are deeply involved, sometimes not at all – it depends on what is needed of them. Men's hormones are triggered by being close to pregnant women and babies, and the more their hormones are triggered, the more they react - they become sensitized. This is nature's way of pulling men into the caring role when they are needed.

Children have adapted to this method of care. They thrive on being cared for by different people. They have the ability to make adults fall in love with them (very different from some of the closest species to humans where the instinct is to kill the children of others).

Babies are extremely sensitive to which adult can give them the best care - anthropologists believe this is how humans developed the ability to read each other's minds.

A mother staying at home in a small family unit by herself to look after children is very unusual compared to the way we've been operating over the last 200,000 years. If the time-line for the whole human race were 24 hours, the 'mum at home/dad at work' model started about 30 seconds ago.

Duncan Fisher

About Duncan

I was on my way to the airport when Clare's first positive pregnancy test came through. I knew then and there that my international work was over for the time being. Since 1997 I have worked from home and I have raised millions of pounds for different programmes in that time. What is more, I have become a leading campaigner for family and employment policies that let both mums and dads 'have it all' – good work AND the opportunity to be close to their children.
* I was nominated a Working Family Champion 1979-2009 by the leading charity, Working Families in 2009
* I served for three years on the Board of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the UK's Government body responsible for gender equality
* I have worked with Government and industry on family friendly work
* I founded and was CEO of the Fatherhood Institute, putting the spotlight on men as parents
* I got an OBE for services to children from the Queen in 2009

But most significantly: I DID IT ALL WORKING FROM HOME! Why? Because I want to be as fully involved as possible in the lives of my children. We all live in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, and the grandparents live close by. In a recent survey of happiness in the UK, our region came out top for all of the UK. And our local pub keeps getting nominated Pub of the Year UK!

My TOP TIP for time with children: for each child, organise two special weekends, one just with mum and one just with dad. Start as soon as breastfeeding is over. (And then try to get in a weekend with just mum and dad!)

Separator Line

Duncan has written a book called Baby's Here! Who Does What? (How to split the work without splitting up).
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