Bringing up children: your views

Key messages received from engagement with those with a parenting role, to help shape the development of the national parenting strategy.

Scottish Ministers are parents too…

Photograph of Mike Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

Mike Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning talks about his experience as a father. His son is now 24 years old.

Were you present at his birth? "I was and it was a caesarean. I'm glad I was there. It was a big contrast to the experience of my own father who for him, the thought would've been unthinkable."

How has your role of a father changed over time and how did this relate to your experience with your own father? "I think I have become a better parent as I have grown older. I think a lot of people are probably like that. Adjusting to fatherhood can take time for different people. I was very close to my father but it was a different relationship."

What helped you most with your role as a parent? "I think, on reflection, probably more preparation was needed. I would've liked to have known more, even though I was changing nappies, up in the middle of the night and all usual things like that, I don't really think I was prepared enough for some of the emotional responsibilities of being a parent. Support is essential as we all know, it can be a very stressful time. My son didn't sleep well for a whole year and of course, that's a strain."

What are your aspirations for your son? "Aspirations for our children should always be of the highest, you want them to be happy and to fulfil their dreams and ambitions and you want to help them to do so. And that for me is my job as a parent - to encourage my son, to help and advise him."

How did having children affect your relationship? "My wife and I were married for eight years before my son was born and it definitely changes an established pattern. It does put a strain on a relationship, but equally people learn by working together and by doing so, you learn more about each other."

How do you manage work and life balance? "It's difficult. I think perhaps at times I've regretted that work has often come first. If you're in politics it can be difficult in those circumstances and yes it's tricky...but I think that idea of the importance of work and focussing on goals is something he's learned and that's positive. That said, I do often regret that work sometimes got in the way."

How do you find time to relax as a family? "We live in the country so when we all get home to some extent we're away from the pressures. We do find time to do things together. As Cabinet Secretary, I'm keen that the policies we pursue support parents and good parenting and we have to learn from what is being done well and do more of it. The big thing is learning those skills and not being too afraid of anything and not thinking anything is unique or abnormal."

Photograph of Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People

Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People shares her views and experience as a mum of an 18-month-old boy called Angus.

What are your aspirations for Angus? "I want Angus to have a healthy, happy and fulfilled life. I want him to have fun, to explore and to have as many enriching experiences as he can cram in. Most of all, I want him to have the confidence to be himself."

When you had children - how did this affect your relationship with your partner? "Nothing can fully prepare you for the changes parenthood brings to your life - the baby you bring home from hospital doesn't come with a handbook, so it was a huge learning experience for both of us! Angus was born five months before the 2011 elections, so it was a real challenge to balance looking after our wee boy, giving him all the attention he deserved, learning about parenthood, campaigning and maintaining a happy family life. It was tough but we were all there for each other, which was really important! After the elections, we decided that Fraser would become a stay-at-home dad. We are very lucky to be able to do this - Fraser loves having the opportunity to spend so much time with our son. It's still quite rare for dads to take on the main day-to-day parental responsibilities for a toddler, but there are encouraging signs that's changing."

What are the best things about being a parent? "Cuddles! Nothing recharges the batteries like a big cuddle from my wee boy. I also get huge satisfaction from watching Angus discover new things and seeing him smile. I just LOVE hearing his little giggle too - just the tonic after a day in parliament!"

Who do you go to for information and advice? "I tend to call my mum for help or advice and Fraser, whose mum was a midwife, calls his too. My parents are retired now so we are lucky that they can travel down to Biggar to help us out from time to time. Fraser's folks are in Shetland so we make plenty use of Skype. When Angus was first born, we had a tremendous health visitor, Marjorie, who had so much experience to offer and was also really kind and supportive - just what a new mum needs."

What have been the challenges for you and your partner as parents? "It's tricky to get a good work/life balance. I am really privileged to have such a wonderful and fulfilling job, although there are many demands that go along with it. So, like many other busy mums and dads, it's a challenge to strike the right balance. When I come home after a day of meetings and parliamentary debates, I feel talked out, while for Fraser, it's often his main opportunity for some adult conversation. We make every effort to ensure we communicate effectively and support each other, as well as doing the very best we can as parents to Angus."


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