Fathers have changed. Surveys that track how families use their time show dads are spending much more time with their young children.
And they’re not just mucking around. Fathers are taking a bigger role in the day-to-day, hands-on care of children, such aspick-ups, drop-offs, feeding and bathing.
It’s a profound cultural shift that has become even more pronounced over the past decade.
But n workplaces have been surprisingly slow to adjust.
Professor Marian Baird, a work and family expert atSydneyUniversity, warns “there’s still a long way to go”before businesses fully take on board the reality of the modern working father.
Her research on employer attitudes to parental leave illustrates some of the constraints fathers face.
Businesses are now quite amenable to mothers taking lengthy periods of parental leave and returning to work part-time, but it’s a different story for dads.
“Employers have accepted that fathers should take some leave around the time of a birth, but it’s really a pretty short period – about two weeks,”she said.
“Most employers are not ready for fathers to take extended leave, or have greater work flexibility, when they have children.”
It is also striking how fathers are largely ignored in the current political debate about government-funded paternity leave.
“It is still all couched in terms of maternity leave and time out for mothers,”says Professor Baird.
“It’s virtual silence when it comes to leave for dads and partners.”
A significant proportion of male workers – up to one in five according to some estimates –would like more flexible work hours but feel they can’t ask for it.
They fear making such a request will stifle their career or even make their job less secure.
Traditionally, being a father has been a career plus –men with children have enjoyed a wage premiumcompared to others.
Women, however, tend to suffer a “motherhood penalty”because so many leave their careers for long periods and take on lower paid, less demanding jobs after having children.
But the determination that modern dads have to be more involved with their children could alter that dynamic.
A new study in Great Britain – which has a work context similar to’s – warns of an emerging “fatherhood penalty”as many men choose to move into lower paid and lower quality work because they have become fathers.
Nearly half of the fathers surveyed for Britain’s “Modern Family Index” –which was released this month – said they would like to downshift into a less stressful job, reflecting the difficulty they face in reconciling work and home. More than a third said they would take a pay cut to strike a better balance between job and family.
This desire was most pronounced among younger “millennial generation”fathers, many of whom have a partner working full-time.
Many resort to fibs to help manage the daily juggle – 44 per cent of fathers and 37 per cent of mothersadmitted they have “lied or bent the truth to their employer”about their family responsibilities.
Unless workplaces can adjust to the way families have changed, there’s a chance we’ll end up with both a motherhood penalty and a fatherhood penalty.
Matt Wade is a Fairfax journalist.
Mum’s the word: It’s virtual silence when it comes to leave for dads and partners.