Stay at home dads, are a rarity in Australia. But that’s not the reason why they’re making the news. A study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies shows that despite their full-time availability men are spending fewer hours taking care of their children compared to their working wives.
A report by the Australian government agency found that stay-at-home dads do only slightly more household chores than mums who work a 35 hour week. While stay-at-home dads spent 19 hours a week on childcare, their partners spent 21 hours. These fathers ended up putting in 28 hours of housework while the mums did 23.
Within two-parent heterosexual families, stay-at-home dad arrangements accounted for 4% of the number – around 75,000 – while stay-at-home mums contributed to 31%, according to the study conducted between 2002 and 2015.
The decision to stay at home to take care of the children is often driven by economic circumstances, rather than choice, the main reason being unemployment or disability. However, according to Dr Jennifer Baxter of AIFS, senior research fellow, men were more likely to take up the role of child carer for older kids because they couldn’t cope with the demands by young babies as well as mums.
The study was inconclusive on the reasons why stay-at-home fathers took up less housework compared to their female counterparts. The fact that breadwinning mums work fewer hours compared to their male colleagues – 35 hours versus 51 per week – may provide the answer.
One thing that’s clear is we are unlikely to see an increase in the proportion of fathers who stay at home because financial pressures force both parents to be in employment.