As the warm glow of another Father’s Day begins to fade, it’s time to ask: what do dads really need to carry out their roles?
Australian fathers work some of the longest hours of all OECD nations. Recent data shows full-time employed fathers work an average of 47 hours per week. One in four work more than 50 hours per week.
This doesn’t just take a toll on fathers. The cost extends to all parents and their children. Long hours at work, whether a dad is working in an organisation or in their own business, generates conflicts between work and family time. Fathers who feel tied to their work may find themselves exhausted and with little energy left over for their family. One in two fathers report they miss out on family activities due to their work, or feel family time is less enjoyable because of job pressures.
Our research has shown these conflicts, reported by one in three working dads, are linked to poorer mental health and well-being. This matters for businesses too. Work-family conflict is linked to lower productivity, more burnout and stress.
Fathers who report high levels of conflict between work and family time are also more likely to report difficulties in their relationships with their children, be it more irritability or fewer warm, close times together.
There is also a cost for mothers and partners. When fathers are working long hours, it is usually mothers who have to shoulder the burden of unpaid work. This too is borne out in recent national data, showing these gendered patterns of work and care have been very slow to change in Australia. For mothers, this means their own paid work participation remains limited.
Most dads want to spend time with their children from birth, but also well beyond. Many men do not feel this is an option.
Fathers take only short paid parental leave (around one week on average); and only one in three access family-friendly working options if they work in an organisation.
Fathers also report feeling judged by peers and friends for taking time out to meet children and family needs.
It’s time to shift the balance and support dads to be dads. This is everyone’s business.
Encourage new dads to get involved with their children, from birth. Support your colleagues, business partners and employees to be as successful a parent as they strive to be at work. Let’s ensure our rights as workers to obtain work-life balance extends to parents – mothers and fathers – equally.
Dr Amanda Cooklin is a senior research fellow at La Trobe University. Her work focuses on work and family, parenting and parent and child mental health.