Far from embracing the school run, most men are still trapped by rigid cultural notions of being strong, dominant and successful. Is it leading to an epidemic of unhappiness similar to the one felt by Betty Friedans 50s housewives?
Back in the 90s, it was all going to be so different. Not for our generation the lopsided approach of our parents, with their quaint postwar notions of father-breadwinners and mother-homemakers. We would be equal; interchangeable. Our young women would run companies, embassies, hospitals and schools, while our young men, no slouches themselves, would punctuate their careers with long, halcyon spells dandling babies and teaching toddlers how to make tiny volcanoes out of vinegar and baking soda.
That equality would have formidable knock-on effects. The gender pay gap would narrow. Sexual harassment wouldnt disappear, but decoupling professional power from gender would do a lot to erase it from the workplace.
A generation or so later, it is clear: this is the revolution that never happened, at least not in the UK. The home-dad pioneers among us who once blazed a trail, now look on aghast as successive waves of men scurry past and say: Right. Back to work.
What happened? Latest statistics for England show more than 80% of fathers still work full time, rising to almost 85% for dads of very young children. This rate has barely changed for 20 years. The ratio of part-timers has flatlined just above 6% throughout this decade (having soared through the 90s and early 00s). Just 1.6% of men have given up work altogether to take care of the family home. New rights for fathers to share parental leave with mothers have poor take-up rates.
You can glimpse this paternity gap at 3.30pm on weekday afternoons at school gates up and down the country. Far from being overrun with gaggles of enlightened men in clothes covered with baby sick and badges saying Worlds greatest dad, the father quota is, in my own limited experience, disappointing. There are often more grandparents doing the pickup than dads.
At the same time, there is no shortage of surveys finding legions of men saying they want to find more time for family life. So what is stopping them?
In 1963, The Feminine Mystique, a seminal book by Betty Friedan, helped launch the second wave of feminism by positing that American women faced a problem that has no name: they had essentially become typecast as uber-feminine mothers, home-makers, cake bakers and sexual slaves to their husbands. Forcing women to live up to this idea of femininity left an entire generation depressed, frustrated or hooked on Valium.
The question is this: 50 years later, are men facing their own problem with no name, a masculine mystique which imposes rigid cultural notions of what it is to be male superior, dominant, hierarchical, sexually assertive to the point of abuse even though society is screaming out for manhood to be something very different?
Men who do change their working lives to accommodate their children generally say it can feel tough, lonely, incongruous, even emasculating. When, 15 years ago, I gave up work altogether for a year to do childcare, it took a while to get used to being the only dad in the park; the strange man arguing with a difficult child outside the library on a damp Tuesday morning. People stared.