While mothers are frequently faced with the question “Can women really have it all?” not enough attention is paid to fathers and the conflicts they face juggling home life and work.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 90 percent of fathers work full-time and more than half of those men work more than 45 hours a week.
University of Queensland research analysed statistics from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey over several years, looking at fathers in a heterosexual partnership, in full-time employment.
The data showed more than one in five fathers combined long hours of childcare with full-time work. Eleven percent juggled more than 20 hours of childcare with 35-44 hours of paid work and a further 11 percent with more than 45 hours a week in paid work.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies has published research on the impact of work-family conflict on men, in line with its “Fathers at Work” symposium. This found mothers (who were most likely to work part time) usually experienced work-family conflict after 30 hours a week of paid work, compared with 40 hours for men.
Most fathers desire to be more present for their children but, due to work commitments, find it near-impossible to juggle the two, leaving them feeling miserable and dissatisfied with their role in the family.
Andy*, a father of four, says his wife Belinda* does the “lion’s share” of the unpaid chores, while he does as much as he can when he’s at home
“But this doesn’t happen very often due to my work,” Andy says.
When it comes to dividing up the unpaid chores in the home, Andy admits this happens sporadically and irregularly, with little success. Like many fathers, Andy feels a lot of guilt about struggling to deal with the work/life balance and pressures of parenthood.
“I do feel guilty about not being home enough to parent my kids which means my wife has to do it by herself a lot of the time. I miss having dinner with them a lot of nights, I rarely get to spend time with them in the afternoon after school. I would like to spend more time with them one to one. I would like to spend more time with them on weekends instead of being at work,” Andy says.
Andy also feels a constant conflict between working long hours to afford to send children to what he believes are “good schools” to increase their future opportunities vs not being present for them as a dad.
The family has started using Family Calendar App, myWhānau to organise the lives of their children. Andy says this has made an enormous difference because, previously, he was trying to sift through dozens of emails and add to the google calendar which was shared with Belinda.
“We had a refrain “If it’s not in the calendar it doesn’t exist” - of course, this was usually said when one of us missed something. I often felt distanced from the kids and school as some school events were not in a calendar I could see, despite out best efforts,” Andy says.
“When I missed events, it felt like our system was inefficient and ineffective., making me feel frustrated, especially when scrambling to try and assist in routine changes at the last minute. Now, with myWhānau I feel like I have good knowledge of what each kid needs to do each day, as it’s easy to have one source to check in the morning for all our information.”
Michelle Forster, CEO and founder of myWhānau believes reducing the burden of unpaid chores faced by most mothers, (and thereby reducing the gender pay gap) is not just a matter of expecting fathers to do more.
“We need to make the outsourcing of chores so much easier, quicker and more affordable. The whole process needs to be effortless. With products like the Family and School Calendar, we are working towards having parents’ time spent on these chores more effective,” Michelle says.
“Our goal is to help fathers like Andy feel more involved and more present with the family. It is my long-term goal for myWhānau to be everyone’s “go-to family tech platform, just as Microsoft’s 365 is for business. It’s something I’m passionate about and I know the Family and School Calendar apps can effectively help so many people who are stressed, burnt out and overwhelmed.”
*Names changed for privacy