Australian stay-at-home dads not all ‘Mr Mums’

Australian stay-at-home dads not all ‘Mr Mums’

Media Release — 16 May 2017

Australian men who become stay-at-home dads while their partners go out to work are still comparatively rare, despite a growing perception their numbers are on the rise.

Australian Institute of Family Studies Director, Anne Hollonds said there were now 75,000 stay-at-home-dad families, accounting for about 4 per cent of two-parent families around the country.

“Men opting for full time fatherhood while their wives and partners bring in the family income are not common and their numbers have changed little over the last five years,” Ms Hollonds said.

“Stay-at-home dads come from diverse backgrounds and their roles and responsibilities are quite different from those mothers carry out in the 31 per cent of stay-at-home-mum families.

“For many, becoming a stay-at-home dad is an economic decision, driven by unemployment, under-employment or disability and not a lifestyle choice to spend more time parenting.

“The fathers tend to be older, with older children and they don’t tend to pick up the full domestic work-load to the same extent that stay-at-home mothers traditionally have.

“For example, mothers in stay-at-home-dad families do a significant proportion of the unpaid housework and slightly more of the actual hands-on childcare.”

AIFS’ Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said the research released as part of National Families’ Week, revealed stay-at-home-dad families had little in common with stay-at-home-mum families.

“In line with other countries, for this research stay-at-home dads were defined as those who were not working; who had children under 15 and a spouse or partner who was working,” Dr Baxter said.

“These stay-at-home dads were either unemployed or were not looking for work for a variety of reasons, while others were on leave. In these families, mothers worked part-time or full-time hours.

“Our analysis showed that stay-at-home-dad families were not simply the reverse ‘mirror’ image of stay-at-home-mum families, just with the gender roles reversed.

“In stay-at-home-dad families, for example, dads spent an average of 19 hours a week on childcare, while mothers spent 21 hours.

“Stay-at-home dads spent 28 hours a week on housework, while mothers spent 23 hours which they managed to combine with an average 35-hour working week paid job.

“In stay-at-home-dad families, parents still often share in child care activities, such as putting children to bed and playing with them. These activities are more often shared rather than being primarily mum’s role, compared to other families. In some stay-at-home-dad families, child care becomes primarily dads’ role, especially caring for sick children and ferrying them to and from places.

“The analysis shows that while stay-at-home dads do take on more responsibility for child care than fathers in other family types, the average stay-at-home dad is still far from being ‘Mr Mum’.

“Despite dividing their time differently, parents in these families were the most likely to agree that children do just as well if the mother earns the money and the father takes care of the home and children.”

The Stay-at-home dads’  facts sheet drew on ABS Census and Labour Force data, as well as data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study.

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