UNFPA's photo project on Father’s Day: famous Ukrainian fathers speak about their experiences as dads.
This photo exhibition is held by UNFPA Ukraine and the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine with the support of Caucus "Equal Opportunities".
Father's Day is celebrated in Ukraine and most countries on the third Sunday of June. On this day, we would like to draw your attention once again to the importance of involving the father in the upbringing and care of his children, as well as in the equal distribution of household responsibilities.
Do you know that 80% of older men regret spending too little time with their children in the past?
Dmytro Kuleba: "I have two kids, and it is both a double happiness and a double responsibility. I got involved in childcare straight after their birth. In my family father always helped in critical situations. I don't think that there is some special parental role for a father. It is exactly the same as the mother's role – to defend, to support and to help their children. It is important for my wife and for me to have time for bringing them up and for our self-development as well. Therefore, we try to divide our responsibilities in such a way that both of us have this opportunity.
I ask my children from time to time in what profession they see themselves in the future. I explain them what each profession entails and results of choosing this or that path. Basically, this is what responsible fatherhood implies. You teach your children to make a choice, you defend and help them. So, I want to wish all Ukrainian fathers to be there for their children. They need you."
Andriy Pyatov: "By investing your attention, time and resources in your child today, you are investing in our future. The future we all aspire to and want to be much better, brighter in all respects than ours. And if we are more loyal to our children, help them, invest in their soul and well-being, then I hope that our future, the future of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren will improve and become brighter."
Sviatoslav Yurash: "An inspiring example of fatherhood for me is my own father, who took paternity leave with my two younger brothers. There was a reason for this because my father was a professor and my mother was in business. As for me, I sincerely wanted to be a father, both morally and practically, because I already practiced changing diapers, getting up at night when I helped take care of my brothers. This is not a new test for me. And I know that the difficult period is over and the miracle begins. The child learns this world, and you are a guide for it. It's a phenomenal feeling when you can explain and at the same time build a system of values and views to help this child be the best he can be for the world around us."
Ivan Krulko: "Thank God and my wife that I have two girls. Daughters require more tenderness, so I become softer than I would be in my everyday life. Active work schedule does not allow me to spend much time at home. But, when I am there, I organize joint activities with kids. Three of us can, for example, cook something tasty. Children love spaghetti carbonara, and it is our specialty, which we like to surprise the mom with.
I try not to impose my views or wishes on the daughters. Our common activities should bring them joy as well. I have already figured out that watching football, which I like very much, is definitely not their cup of tea. They know that their dad is a football fan and tolerate it, but do not want to participate. On the other hand, they love to join me for fishing. With the older daughter we play tennis. The younger one looks at us and wants to play too, so we will start to engage her as well soon.
We look closely at what our girls like, what skills they have, and try to develop them further in that direction. One should listen to his children, see what qualities they have and help them flourish. It is good if our daughters will hear our advice. Yet if they will decide to do things their own way, it is also perfectly fine. We will support them. Yes, one should pay attention to his children's skills. But then let them go and fulfill their potential the way they want. Then children will be happy in their lives.
Loving your children, in my understanding, means giving them everything you can. Listening to them, being able to calm them down, finding the right words when they have difficult moments. Every kid has her life and her moments. I would like to wish our fathers to be with their kids and see how they grow up. A moment will come, when they become adults. And then it would be wonderful, if they could recall with a great pleasure the childhood time, spent with their dad."
Vasyl Virastyuk: "To change diapers for a child is not a problem for me at all, I even showed Inna (wife) for the first time, she forgot a bit, and after Adam and Oleg I have enough practice."
Taras Stepanenko: "We have such a ritual - first I feed the youngest son, and then the older sons choose a book and I read to them. They, of course, have a few favorites, but in general we have plenty of books, they love to read."
Oleksandr Pedan: "I believe that men who do not spend time with family, children, wife, citing the fact that they have a lot of work, use this reason as an excuse. As for me, over the past five years, I have become much more focused on my family, in particular on my daughter. When she was nine years old, I realized: a little more - and she will stop hold my hand, a little more - and she may be so far away that I will not have time to be friends with her and later I will not be able to extract a word from her, and the relationship with her will become completely formal. When a son was born, it became an incentive to be with relatives even more. So my attitude changed.
Playing with my son in the playgrounds, I notice a trend: dads are no longer parents on the weekend. This applies to Ukrainians and foreigners. Although, in my opinion, foreign dads with children in their arms look more organic. The fact is that they try to spend as much time as possible with their children, so they have better contact.
Dad for the weekend can be seen from afar through big frightened eyes, trembling hands, dissatisfied facial expression. Children do not listen to them, and they do not know how to treat their own children: how to interest, amuse, explain something. I have no right to advise them, but the sooner they understand that it is worth communicating with children more often, the sooner they will find a common language with them and will only enjoy walking together."
Volodymyr Tsabal: "Responsible parenting is to give your time to your child. It is to be able to communicate and listen. This is when you put the interests of the child above your own and do accordingly."
Denys Maliuska: “I have four kids, and the more you have, the easier it gets. Kids now help each other well under way. The most important is to give them this opportunity to enjoy their autonomy. For example, my kids love to experiment in the kitchen together. It happened quite a few times that we had to clean the whole kitchen and buy new kitchenware afterwards. But we do have a result! Now we can leave them at home with no worries, and they will cook such dishes that we could not even dream of.
My wife and I immediately shared our childcare responsibilities. Our parents reside outside of Kyiv, so there was nobody to help us with kids. My wife never actually took a maternity leave, she always worked. So, both of us managed and still are managing the childcare process together. For sure, there were times when one adult spent more time with a particular child. When Ulyana, our daughter, was little and got sick, it was me who took more care of her. It has been different with every kid, but there are certain things that I traditionally do. For example, cooking breakfasts and sandwiches for school, checking homework, helping with school subjects or calming them down when they get too naughty.
For me being a responsible father means keeping my temper. It is especially important, when you have four children and all of them are very active. My children learn only from the example, and it is not possible to force them into anything if you don't do it yourself. So I can't let my emotions come over me, but should rather stay reasonable and calm.
Our oldest daughter is now 13 years old, and she has started choosing her future occupation. I explain risks and consequences linked with certain choices, but I do not force. She chooses subjects to concentrate on and classes to take additionally herself.
I would like to recommend fathers to give more autonomy to their kids, because they can cope and take care of each other very well. It is way easier with the fourth kid than with a first one. With every next one our parental engagement dropped down. Also, don't be scared to give your kids room for experiments. Yes, my children created a lot of mess, when they learned how to cook. But now they can cope at home perfectly without adults."
Ruslan Kolbasa: "My daughter has recently turned 15. It is an interesting age, because now she has different demands, whims and plans. It is time, when our attention and support are vital. So, as a parent, one should not forbid, but to direct wisely. She has to make her own decisions while listening to herself. Sometimes it happens that we approve of her choice, she tries something and then says that it was not such a good idea. We have already had a few of such experiences. It is a period of her trial and error, preparation for her adult life.
My parents gave me the right to be responsible for my life, and I bring up my daughter in the same way. I can explain her consequences of some decision, but I do not demand anything. She should see all advantages and disadvantages for herself. Her future is in her hands. But I am always there for her, ready to support. I have a complicated job, so I don't spend as much time with her as I would like to. But I try to catch up during weekends and organize joint adventures for us.
I want my daughter to share everything with me. To come to me not only when she has some serious trouble, but also with simple daily issues. I believe that father's support is needed throughout the whole life and on all life's stages. When the newborn feels warmth in her father's arms, when she makes her first steps, when she chooses her future profession. Happy childhood is not just a few words. As a father, I should make decisions in the interest of my child. Make sure, that there is mutual understanding in the family. Everyone has the right for self-expression – from the youngest to the oldest. The baby has the right to say "no" and what exactly she wants. So I want to wish fathers to hear that voice. To allow it to rise up. Also: be defenders for your children. They should feel that they can rely on you. Having such support, they will form their future and go through life with more confidence."
Tymur Khromaev: "I think that parents should be like banks of one river. Children have their own life, but they know they can always rely on the bank. I grew up in a family, where everybody worked a lot, so we did not spend much time with my father. In my view, those were times of emotional hunger and high requirements upon children. If you were a boy, then you had to be a fighter. Yet those times passed, nowadays it is all different. So, instead of indicating or demanding something from your kids, listen to them, regardless of how small they are.
I have a daughter and a son, and we have different common activities with each of them. They have ten years of age difference, so I can allow myself to be more playful and carefree with my son, who is younger. But I look at our teenage daughter and realize: she is 16 now, but has the same serious facial expression, as 15 years ago, when she was a baby. Nothing has changed much in that regard. She has always been very thoughtful, with her own principles. In this period of her life it is vital not to interfere with our parental views, but to give her space that she fights for so vigilantly. Let her do what she feels is right for her, let her learn to take responsibility for her life. We will support in the process.
When our second child was born, it was easier to take care of him. Parental routine was not brand new anymore. When you already know everything, then you can dedicate more time to different pleasant activities. So to say, to catch up with everything you fell short of, as a dad, with the first child. If I could have played more with the older daughter, then I try to do it more with my son now. The daughter does not get insulted or jealous. Moreover, she shows more affection and tenderness towards her brother than us, her parents.
I wish fathers to listen to their children. Regardless of how old kids are, they are full members of the family and the society. So be wise. For sure, this wisdom comes gradually, once we start listening more to our children, supporting their interest towards life, their loved ones and themselves. Parents, no doubt, are sources of knowledge and values. But, first and foremost, kids should explore this world by themselves. While knowing that they have support, they have somebody to rely on, to ask for an advice, when it is needed."
Roman Gryshchuk: "There is a moment in one's life when you feel: you want a child, you want to become a dad. My fatherhood is my own path, and it is vital for me to go all the way. I don't understand how people can get involved in fatherhood at some particular point. I knew that I would do it from the very beginning. My son is less than a year old, and I have been with him from the first minutes of his life. From the moment, when he was in his mom's tummy, and we listened to his heartbeat. During the labour I was the first one to hold him in my arms. Well, after the obstetrician.
I am lucky, because more than a half of my son's life was spent in quarantine. So, I could give him maximum of my attention. Now there is less time, when we are back to our usual work rhythm. I go for a walk with him in the mornings, see him in the evenings, if I manage to get home before our baby falls asleep. On weekends we are always together. There were many times, when my wife left breast milk and two of us, me and our baby, stayed at home. I can easily feed him, bathe him and change his diapers. Yes, there are things, which my wife can do better. But I can also do them. On the other hand, there are things that I can manage better. For instance, my wife trusts me more with cutting our son's fingernails.
I think that one should study childcare and upbringing. Especially if it is your first baby. But, honestly, I don't have enough time to read manuals. My childcare is more about emotions, about the feeling what is right and what is not than a theory. Yet my wife reads a lot and shares some bits with me as well.
Responsible fatherhood, in my view, is putting the interests of your child first. I will support any life choice my son is going to make. The younger the child, the more important we are as parents. But as he grows up, he will become more and more capable of taking responsibility for his actions, gradually start making his own decisions.
I have a very simple advice to all fathers – love your kids. But it does not imply giving them only material provision. That's not enough. Your attention to the children and their needs is more important than money."
Taras Topolya: "Being a father every day means loving your children. When you love children, when you put them on an equal footing with yourself and understand that they will continue you, then you raise them accordingly. Then your every move, your every action is dictated by love for them. And everything else - details. The way we wake up, study, walk, exercise, brush our teeth or something else are nuances. The nuances that begin with love.
For example, we read books to our sons every night. They fall asleep to Ukrainian fairy tales, to our songs with Olena. All of us are already used to laying down on the sofa every night and reading there. Children fall asleep with us. Then we take them to their beds and get back to our business. The moment they fall asleep with us is very important to them. And before going to bed we constantly tell them how happy we are, that we have them, that we have been waiting for them, how much we love them, that they are our happiness. We want to invest in their subconscious - they are desirable children, no matter what happens, we will be with them."
Oleksandr Elkin: "My daughter is my main life teacher. Despite the fact that she is four years old, I treat her like an adult, I respect her wishes, her point of view, although it is not always easy, I learn to negotiate. On the one hand, she is incredibly similar to me in appearance, and on the other - fundamentally different from all the children of her generation. What contact she has with gadgets, how differently she keeps the focus of attention, how much inner freedom she has! I only dream of one thing: not to harm her, not to change the direction of her life, the direction that she will choose. This is basically the task of fatherhood: not to try to impose your vision, your hobbies, and to do everything so that the child can find answers to all her questions."
Pavlo Matyusha: "My wife and I have been planning to write a parenting book. We came up with this idea a while ago and thought about calling it "How to travel with two children and still enjoy it". Then the title changed to "How to travel with three children and still enjoy it". Well, now we have four children. I wouldn't say that it is always easy. That would be a lie. Children bring both joy and sometimes trouble. But when it is joy, then a very genuine kind of it. And having four joys is awesome.
If not kids, my book "Viechka" would, probably, never be published. Every evening I read goodnight stories to my children, and at some point started to make up fairy tales myself. I have told so many of them during these years, that had to publish some of the tales eventually. My kids were the first ones, who listened to and approved on "Viechka", and then it was released to the outer world. It is a book about openness, tolerance and acceptance of the otherness. These are the values that I want to pass on to my children. The beauty of this world is in its diversity, not uniformity. I have taught it to them and will continue to do it. In the meantime, wherever my children happen to be – New York, London or Hong Kong, they should always remember that they are Ukrainians. I feel that it is my task too – to provide this understanding.
The most important in the parental job is the right attitude. Not to force, but to clarify, to give your children a nudge in the right direction. I think that it is an excellent strategy. We, adults, have our preferences, and kids have their own. So, we divide everything with my wife in such a way that everybody does what they like more. For example, I am in charge of doing sports and mathematics with kids. Our mom likes to watch educational programmes with them and study Ukrainian. If there are things, which nobody wants to do, then we may decide by playing rock-scissors-paper. But taking care of our children is not exhausting. Their childhood passes very quickly, so I understand, that we should be present and share moments with them to the maximum right now.
Fathers have to be reminded that a child is a source of joy, not a concern. You can do and experience so many interesting things together! It is essential not to push your child and not to compensate your unresolved issues, but to listen to their needs and give them an opportunity to open up. Such an attitude will give better understanding and a closer bond between you and your child for decades to come."
Volodymyr Ariev: "Responsible parenting is not only about cooking together in the kitchen, but to understand what kind of person your child is, especially when he or she is growing up. Shared activities and interests are conducive to trust, which means the child will listen to the advice of experienced parents more carefully."
Yaroslav Yurchyshyn: "I have three kids, and it has got more and more interesting with every new one. For example, nowadays it is not only my wife and me who read fairy tales to our kids. Older children get involved as well. They read bedtime stories they heard, once they were very little, and add something from themselves. This way new stories get created. Every child is the whole Universe. When they interact with each other, something absolutely new is being born.
Kids need my company more for playing football, climbing up trees or building a tree house. There are things, which my wife takes more care of. Then, when a moment arrives, I might need to ask her for some instructions. But, generally speaking, there is no division between female and male jobs in our family. We can replace each other in any task, be it taking a child to the doctor's or cooking dinner. There are specials though, which are cooked only by me. For example, Hutsul style potatoes. Kids love to give a hand in the kitchen in this process.
Our oldest one has started thinking about her future profession. I get involved in the discussion, but do not impose my choice upon her. There was once a situation: our neighbor said about her 2-year-old daughter, that once the baby grows up, she will become obstetrician, because it is a good job. We exchanged looks with my wife and realized that we are absolutely different parents. We did not know and still do not know who our child becomes. Yet we are ready to support any of her choices.
We live in the time, when one can firstly try something, then quit it and start anew. Thus, we want to cultivate a right attitude towards try and error in our kids. Mistake is not the end of the world. It is merely a lesson, which one has to learn, draw conclusions from and do things differently in the future.
In my opinion, father's role is to support, to participate, to be a pillar, and not only in difficult situations. To be a loyal friend, a partner, a guarantor of comfort and peace. Kids should have trust in you, come to talk to you or ask you for an advice with no fear. I would not say that the father's role differs much from the mother's. Both should love their children unconditionally. I don't mean indulging them, but rather understanding that children are the most valuable in our lives. They are our major life project. They are individuals, who have parts of ourselves.
Therefore, I want to wish all fathers to cherish time with their children. We often rush for a career and accomplishments. Yet, in the meanwhile, we deprive our closest ones, people who love us and need us, of our time. First and foremost we ought to give attention to our children and our family. They are the people we should by default have time for."
This exhibition has been launched in the framework of the 4 Hands Happiness Project, which is a social initiative of UNFPA and the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine since 2015. The project aimed to overcome stereotypes about the unequal distribution of household responsibilities in favor of joint household chores and childcare. The project also emphasizes the importance of men engagement in childcare and the importance of the paternity leave availability.