Most of the time when mothers go off to work, they leave their babies in childcare, so don’t have the same immediately comfortable confidence that their little ones are in the very best of care.
When fathers of new babies head off to work each day, they usually feel
comfortable in the knowledge that their little ones are being well cared for;
because they left their baby with its mother.
Most of the time when mothers go off to work, they leave their babies
in childcare, so don’t have the same immediately comfortable confidence that
their little ones are in the very best of care. This extra worry can make going
back to work hard for working mums.
But what if the baby was left with Dad? Mum could return to work safely
knowing Bubs is in excellent hands and would then be able to focus entirely on
Or at least this is how I imagine Heaven looks in my head.
Why do the Dads get to go off to work guilt-free,
yet when the mothers go too they are racked with guilt? There is one perfect
solution to this problem; Dad stays home while Mum goes to work!
While I admit a lot of the neurosis and guilt of being a working mum
could just be mine, I think every mum would love a stay at home Dad! Thankfully
it is becoming more and more common, but still has a bit of a way to go before
it has become the norm.
Dads are staying at home?
Australian Bureau of Statistics results indicated that between 2003 and
2013, the number of stay at home Dad families doubled, from around 50,000 to
While these figures were promising, the numbers seem to have plateaued, with ABS results last year saying
the number was still the same. With stay
at home Dad arrangements only making up 4% of two-parent families with
dependent children, we still have a long way to go.
When interviewed, families across the board were supportive of the
concept of the stay at home Dad, but very few of us seem to able to put that
progressive thinking into reality.
having a stay at home Dad is a great idea!
When today's’ working mothers in
Australia retire, they will have around half of the superannuation that their
male counterparts have. This is due to
the years of maternity leave, and years of part-time work, or no work, that
they undertake because they are raising the children. The majority of families
have mothers taking on the greater burden of the childcare and looking after
This difference in superannuation might not matter so much if husbands
and wives retire together and divide their
super evenly and live happily ever after. But many women end up retiring alone,
either because of marriage breakdown or because men on average do not live as
long, and by this point, the numbers are
starting to look really concerning for us girls.
If the mother and father take equal amounts of time off to be
responsible for raising the children, both careers will be in much better
shape. Women will spend less time out of the workplace overall and will be less
likely to fall behind in industry developments, professional training,and career advancement.
And while their careers are on track, they feel better able to focus on
work when they are there, because their baby is being well looked after. The
working mother’s stress levels are lower and their emotional and mental health
is better than when both parents are working.
If mothers are thinking that returning to work will lessen their bond
with their baby, these worries seem to be unfounded. Research shows that
children whose mother’s work do not form weaker bonds with their mothers.
More and more Dads are finding that spending a year or three at home
with the children, instead of in the workforce is actually quite a good idea.
For Thomas and his wife Anna, it made sense because she ran her own
pharmacy, while he was a secondary teacher, and it was easier for him to get
time off. Plus, possibly because he was a teacher, he found he was a natural at
being the stay at home Dad.
Dads who stay home get to know their children better, building stronger
bonds and stronger communication with their children in their formative years.
When you talk to the Dads who are doing this, they are overwhelmingly
happy with the situation and say that working Dads they talk to want what they
These fathers tell how they appreciate having time with their kids, and
say that when they are all grown up, it will be too late to regret not having
had that time. As the old saying goes, no-one ever lies on their deathbed and
wishes they had spent more time at work.
The quality of care the child receives is the same regardless of if Mum
or Dad is the parent that stays at home. And most children will love to look back
and have had that relationship with their father, in a society where fathers
still overwhelmingly leave the home to work.
A father’s parenting style is quite different to a mother’s, and
children who get equal amounts of both have been shown to flourish emotionally,
cognitively, behaviourally and
developmentally. One of the key factors in children developing empathy tends to
come from what they are modelled by their
And boys who see their fathers taking an equal childcare role are more
likely to be progressive thinkers and compassionate adults themselves.
some of the drawbacks of the stay at home Dad?
Sometimes naysayers have things to say. I don’t recommend listening to
them, but it is hard to ignore them completely.
At the moment it seems to take a confident man to become a stay at home
Dad. While all the Mums at the playground and school pick up and swimming
lessons are pretty happy to see a Dad there from time to time, that Dad may not
be getting quite the respect he deserves.
His working mates and former
colleagues may question the decision to take time at home, and the more
conservative or traditional members of the older generation may raise their
eyebrows a little as well.
‘I had my parents asking why I was staying home,’ said Andrew, one stay
at home Dad, ‘They were concerned that I had been made redundant, or that I
would be if I wasn’t careful’
‘I am constantly asked if I am babysitting,’ said Nathan, who is the
primary carer for his boys aged 3 and 5, ‘And when my son’s teacher needed to
discuss something, she asked when his mother would be available, as though I
couldn’t make decisions about my son on my own.’
Fathers who stay home can be a
bit more isolated than stay at home Mums
because they have fewer peers. Fathers
are less likely to join in Mother’s Groups (perhaps because they are called
Mother’s Groups!) and playgroups, although many will still connect with other
parents at the park and at children’s activities.
Stay at home Dads have fewer people they can talk with who know
exactly what they are going through, and less social supports during the day if
trouble arises than women do. Women tend
to be better at asking for help as well, so it may be that Dads are isolated
because they are more reluctant to reach out to other primary carers for peer
Studies show that in families
where the Dad stays home, the Mum still does quite a large portion of the
housework and childcare. Even in those awesome families that are managing
the new arrangements, the work/home balance of work is not very evenly split.
When there is a stay at home Dad, and the Mum does the bulk of work
outside the home, on average she still spends more hours per week looking after
the children than the father does. Also, she only spends five hours less a week
on housework than her full-time
These figures are not coming off as just and fair, and don’t seem to be
supporting the argument for women to go back to work to lessen their load.
the stay at home Dad experiment work
For most families, it is more a financial choice than a preferential or
practical one as to who takes on what role. For most couples, the male has a
higher earning capacity, so it makes better financial sense for him to work
History tends to show that the happiest
babies are the ones whose parents love what they are doing. If their mother
stays home when she wants to be working or puts her baby in care when she isn’t
comfortable with it, and she is miserable, her baby can tell.
If Dad loves staying home and
Mum loves working, then there is an easy solution; stick with this plan! Do
what feels best for you as a couple and a family, and never mind what the
naysayers say about it. Soon, if I have anything to say about it, it will
definitely be the new norm!
The best advice may be to follow your instincts and do what feels right
for you, regardless of what society has to say about it.
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