It’s a reversal of the traditional roles but whilst most dads are out at work, I’ve found a really rewarding part to play in family life.

Dad of five and granddad of five, Paddi O'Brien, 54, from Dunbar, used to describe himself as a ‘burley builder’ who owned his own construction business until a heart condition stopped him working.  Twelve years on, his life is unrecognisable  His days are now split between his own family and a volunteering for Home-Start.
After a prolonged period of ill health and his second heart operation, Paddi, then aged 40, was forced to retire from his construction business and re-evaluate his life. His three eldest children were nearly all grown up.  But his youngest, twins, then aged eight, gave him the opportunity to become a full-time houseparent.  He took the lead in managing the home and bringing up the young kids while his wife went out to work.

It was this change in direction that inspired Paddi to start volunteering to support other families.  He says:  "I really enjoyed taking on the main caring responsibility for the twins.  I’d missed so much of our older kids growing up – I always left early for work when they’d still be in bed and returned late so I missed a lot of their upbringing."


Paddi volunteered for us  for more than five years.  He says:

Male volunteers are a bit of a rare breed when it comes to family focused charities. People tend to do a bit of a double take when they hear I’m supporting a family but men actually have a lot to offer, particularly acting as a positive male role model.

Since starting volunteering, Paddi has supported three different families.  He says that it’s as much about the children as it is the parent.  Paddi explains: "Home-Start is very well structured, they employ professional staff who in turn give us volunteers fantastic support."  

"I might give support to a dad who feels like he doesn’t know what he should be doing or I might be supporting the mum and helping look after the kids whilst she takes some time out.  Sometimes it’s a combination of many things.

"The most important role I play in a family’s life though is being someone they can depend on."

Paddi concludes: "This isn’t what I thought I’d being doing with my life, I pictured myself building up my business for some time yet, but I’ve really enjoyed being a houseparent and volunteering for Home-Start is very rewarding.  It’s a reversal of the traditional roles but whilst most dads are out at work, I’ve found a really rewarding part to play in family life."

Inspired? See if you can volunteer locally.

Please support Home-Start so that we can continue to train more volunteers like Paddi. Find out how you can help us.