Kids lose out when dad works long hours
EMPLOYERS should help fathers leave work early to spend quality time with their children, a parenting expert says.
Janet Cater believes disruptive and difficult children often feel abandoned by fathers who work long hours. Today she is calling on bosses to make it more socially acceptable for men to manage their careers, from shorter days to better paternity leave.
“I have worked with families throughout Australia and what I am finding is that children are often being difficult because they feel that their dad doesn’t love them because they don’t see him and he spends so much time at work,” she said. “It is a very real phenomenon.”
Janet Cater runs a business specialising in teaching parents and teachers to cope with “problem” children, and she’s calling for a change in culture which would knock holes in her bottom line – employers acknowledging and even encouraging fathers to take advantage of flexible working arrrangements so that they too can spend time with their kids. Because kids who feel that one of their parents has no time for them are not contented kids, yet that is what the current model work situation for most families imposes: families where one parent sacrifices the dignity of paid work for the family, and the other parent sacrifices the joys of family for paid work. Cater argues that it doesn’t have to be that way, and both kids and dads would be happier if that model of work/family imbalance changes.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show fathers in full-time jobs with children under 15 are working an average of 43 hours a week.
One in three works more than 50 hours a week and 16 per cent spend more than 60 hours a week under the hammer. More than half also regularly work overtime.
Yet only 30 per cent of fathers use flexible work arrangements to help care for their children, compared with 70 per cent of working mothers. And just 3.4 per cent of Australian families comprise a stay-at-home dad and working mum.
Those flexible work arrangements are just as open, legally, to men as they are to women. It’s the cultural openness which has to change. Some men are managing to organise their lives to achieve a better work/family balance.
Gareth Isaac decided to cut back on his 60-hour working week at the internet banking division of Westpac following the birth of his daughter, Caitlin, 16 months ago. He works from home one day a week and tries to get home at a reasonable time on other days.
“The bank has been great and that has made my life a lot easier,” he said.
“I know fathers who never get to see their kids. Caitlin is only young but it has still helped us to bond by me working from home.”
Good luck to you too, Gareth.