Help dads deal with the grump factor

What makes dads grumpy? Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
What makes dads grumpy? Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

What’s the link between The X Factor, leaving the lights on, and the neighbour’s cat?

They’re all things that can make dads grumpy.

Almost a quarter of British dads admit they’re always cranky, while another 73% say they’re becoming more so as they get older.

A poll of 1,000 UK fathers found leaving the lights on is most likely to make dads grumble, followed by potentially annoying things like bad drivers, general bad manners and The X Factor. And further down the list, there’s all manner of ‘offences’, ranging from kids not helping with chores or not eating their meal and then complaining they’re hungry, to being treated as a taxi driver, the neighbour’s cat, and reality TV shows.

The Merlin Annual Pass survey found that 62% of dads say they’re most grumpy during the working week, coming out of their mood at the weekends. And indeed, the biggest general reason for grumpiness was work, while money and household chores were also bugbears.

Work Pressure

While Jeremy Davies of the Fatherhood Institute says there’s no evidence dads are any more grumpy than mums, he points out that the pressure of work may well have an adverse effect on fathers’ moods.

“More dads than mums are probably working full-time, and there’s evidence that it’s dads who are most dissatisfied with their work-life balance,” he says.

“They want to spend more time at home, but they don’t see a way of achieving that.”

Gender stereotyping

He points out that some families drift into parents taking on stereotypical roles, with mums looking after the kids and dads going out to work and having little to do with childcare, when in fact the whole family might be happier with more flexible arrangements.

“Sometimes what can help is for mums to take a step back and allow dads to develop their own skills as a parent without someone looking over their shoulder all the time.

“It’s about collaboration and playing to your strengths - gender stereotyping can get in the way of parents becoming the best parent they can be. For the sake of our kids we ought to all be sharing responsibility for the details.”

Happy taxis

Davies suggests that for some of the grumpiness triggers on the list, dads - and mums - would do well to change their perspective a little.

“There are aspects of being a parent that we tend to think of as chores and something to be endured, when in fact ‘taxiing’ the kids around and spending time with them in the car, for example, can be a really positive experience.

“Dads do do a lot of taxiing the kids, and it tends to be thought of as a boring chore, when in fact kids will often open up during chats in the car, and you can play music together and games.

“If parents just shift their attitude a bit, some ‘chores’ can be worthwhile and enjoyable for both them and the kids.”

Smiling dads

While three quarters of dads believe they need to make more effort to be less grumpy, 72% say time with their family improves their mood, and more than half think a good night’s sleep is often all it takes to bring an end to their grumpiness. Another 27% say food helps.

A family day out, a nice gesture from a partner or children and a cold beer can also put a smile on their face.

Davies adds: “There are background reasons why dads can feel challenged by their roles these days - they may bear the brunt of bringing the money in, but want to be at home and involved more. That might make them grumpy sometimes.

“But I think many of the things on the list, like The X Factor and traffic jams, could make anyone grumpy, not just dads.”

What makes dads grumpy:

Leaving the lights on

Traffic jams

Bad drivers

General bad manners

Cold callers calling in the evening

Football team losing

Not spending time with family because of work

The X Factor

Planning and cost of family activities

The kids arguing