The first State of Australia’s Fathers report by Save the Children finds fathers want to spend more time caring for their children when they are sick, and more flexible work arrangements so they can be with their kids when they are young.
The report of 1000 fathers found that respondents believe that having an active father; or other male figure is important for child development. But still, many fathers also see themselves as helpers rather than primary carers and almost half had never sought advice about caring for their children.
On childbirth and child health the results were mixed: two thirds of men with kids younger than 16 attended an ultrasound examination; and 85% where present at the birth. However only half of those surveyed attended antenatal classes.
But men are concerned about the impact of their health on caring for children. For example, nearly half are concerned about their physical health, and a third about their mental health and its potential impact on their kids.
Many men say that want more flexible work arrangements to care for their kids. But of those surveyed, around 40% took a week or less off when their child was born, and 11% took no time off when their child was born or adopted.
According to Save the Children, men need better access to health and other social services; and more maternal and child health professionals should be trained to engage with men.
“Maternal and child health professionals are of the first point of contact with services for new parents and [offers] an ideal opportunity for greater father engagement,” the report says.
Save the Children says we need a nationally led consultation process in which men themselves determine what will assist their role in caregiving.
“Some services and initiatives for fathers are available, but many men do not know what is out there, or a not accessing them.”
Save the Children also says workplace practices need to change, so that paid leave, non-transferable leave can be expanded so that dads can spend more time with their kids when they are young.
Also, it calls on employees to offer more carer’s leave so that employees can look after their children if they are sick.
It says we need flexible work arrangements in line with the Fair Work Ombudsman Best Practice Guild on Work and Family, so that dads can be around to drop off or pick up their kids from school; take annual leave in part days; given part-time work; or work from home.
It also calls for a nationally-led fathers’ ambassador campaign to celebrate the role fathers can play in their children’s lives.
“Many fathers have limited references to equal care for their children from their own upbringing or their peers. Father ambassadors across a range of professions and cultural backgrounds is one way to champion the case for change,” says Save the Children.