ABS stats show percentage of fathers seeking flexible work hours has doubled in 20 years
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ABS stats show percentage of fathers seeking flexible work hours has doubled in 20 years

Like many young Canberra couples Dan and Juanita Watters found themselves facing tough career choices when deciding to start a family. Both working full time and trying to juggle work and family responsibilities, something had to give.

"It was a nightmare. I felt this enormous amount of conflict trying to balance everything. Some days I wouldn't even see the kids. Some days I would see them for 20 minutes and that was pretty common," Mr Watters said.

Stay-at-home dad: Dan Watters with his two children Sam, 6, and Tilley, 4.

Stay-at-home dad: Dan Watters with his two children Sam, 6, and Tilley, 4. Credit:Rohan Thomson

Ms Watters initially worked part-time to help look after the children, but when a promotion at work presented itself, it was full time. Mr Watters made the decision to resign from his job so that his wife could take the promotion.

Mr Watters is one of the growing number of Australian men opting to become stay at home fathers. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, dads using flexible working hours to look after their kids has nearly doubled to 30 per cent since 1996.

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Mr Watters said that while he was lucky with the flexibility given by the workplaces he's worked at, he knew he couldn't work the job he was doing part time. He has been a full-time stay at home dad for the past two months looking after their children, Sam, six, and Tilly, four.

"I've been at home for two months now, being full time at home means being able to do things like washing, cleaning, putting the dinner on the table and all that sort of stuff which makes life just so much better for all of us."

Senior research fellow from the Australian Institute of Family Studies Jennifer Baxter said despite the positive gains and the slow reversal of old gender stereotypes, some work places still make it challenging for fathers wanting more flexible working hours.

"Jobs across the spectrum expect workers to work longer hours," Ms Baxter said.

Employees can request flexible leave if they have been employed at the same work place for 12 months or more, according to Fair Work Australia.

But the Australian Human Rights Commission recently found 35 per cent of men experience discrimination related to flexible work. Men are also twice as likely as women to have their request to work flexible hours rejected.

For Mr Watters, the biggest benefit has been gaining more to enjoy to further bond with his kids.

"Before Tilly starts school, now is my only chance to really bond with her, it's really great."

Mr Watters said that while he will go back to part-time work once the kids were older, for the meantime he was enjoying spending time fully focused on the family.

"We have a mortgage so I'll have to go back to work eventually. But we've both just sort of realised it's just not worth the money, it's better to have a level of enjoyment of life."

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