For Full-Time Fathers, the Pressure Is On

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Australian fathers are working more, spending more time with their children and helping with domestic chores and the pressure to “do it all” is starting to show.

Between 1997 and 2006, the average work hours for men have gone up almost six hours a week in the past decade. The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children Annual Statistical Report 2010 found that fathers working 55 hours or more a week were considerably more likely to report being rushed or pressed for time, or to be missing out on family activities, than those working shorter hours.

“With numbers like these, no wonder more fathers are looking for alternatives to the traditional work style,” says Fiona Anson, co-founder of part-timer’s job website “Mothers certainly still outnumber fathers in terms of part-time employment, but we’re seeing more and more fathers looking for part-time or contract work so that they have more time to spend with their families”.

“A few months ago, we had one job seeker contact us who was a full-time father of two daughters below the age of 10. He had been forced to resign from his full-time job because he doesn’t have any local family support and was searching for a flexible job that would allow him to manage his family commitments. And there are plenty of men in a similar situation all over Australia. It just goes to show that “part time” is not just for teenagers and mothers”.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are now 12,000 stay at home Dads in Australia which represents an increase of almost 36 per cent over two years. Unfortunately, there is still very little support.

In these difficult economic times, additional working hours brings in additional income which can improve living standards, provide families with more opportunities and access to services such as child care and domestic help but the question is, “at what cost?”

The 2010 Longitudinal Study of Australian Children reported that 45% of fathers who were employed full-time said they often or always felt rushed or pressed for time. Furthermore, 40% of employed mothers with young children and 66% of employed fathers agreed that because of the work they did they had missed out on home or family activities that they would have liked to have taken part in. Finally, 23-25% of employed fathers and mothers indicated that their family life was less enjoyable and more pressured owing to their work responsibilities.

Figures 4.6 and 4.7, The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children Annual Statistical Report 2010. LEFT (4.6): Fathers feeling rushed or pressed for time, by age of youngest child and weekly work hours, B and K cohorts, Waves 1-3. RIGHT (4.7): Employed fathers missing out on family activities due to work, by age of youngest child and weekly work hours, B and K cohorts, Waves 1-3.

The desire to achieve a better work/life balance is permeating society while the pressure to provide more financially mounts and this opposing pressures are forcing changes in the way Australians view work. As full time employment drops, part-time employment continues its steady rise. Last month, the ABS Labour Report showed part-time now makes up 30 per cent of the workforce.

Author of the 2011 Australian Institute of Family Studies report Alan Hayes said fathers are expected to, and in most cases want to, spend more time with their children, but workplaces can be unforgiving.

“Men are anxious about moving to part-time work or seeking more flexibility in their hours because they think it will impede their career”, he said. “Some men have managed it, but it remains extremely patchy, with good examples of employers providing flexibility remaining the minority”.

Anson agrees but she’s optimistic.

“I truly believe people are not willing to just accept full-time, 9-5 plus overtime as the only choice,” Anson says. “All the time we see more people moving towards contract, part-time and flexible work, and the numbers are growing monthly.  The Labour Reports each month simply support that. Employers that have work/life balance initiatives are being seen as the most competitive and desirable employers and we believe that that’s where the talent will go because people want their employer to understand their need and desire to balance family with work because it can be done. What we’re really seeing is a transition into new way of viewing work”.

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