13 February 2011
Father time key to well-being
By Sarah Whyte
Fathers can shake off their "assistant parent" tag by spending more time with their children without having mothers around.
They would improve their parenting skills and the family would benefit if fathers and children got together more, an Australian study found.
"Kids need their fathers for them to be around and doing the organising part of their lives. Our culture is to leave it all to mum," said one of the study's authors, University of Melbourne academic Margot Prior.
The study, published in December in the journal Early Child Development and Care, involved 110 families in Melbourne with children aged between three and 12.
Fathers who spent significant time with their children said they felt the youngsters' well-being was improved, their own sense of worth rose and it promoted them from the role of "assistant parent".
"Solo care is about the interaction," Professor Prior said. "It is the notion of fathers taking the responsibility in making decisions more of the time."
Seaforth couple Kevin Peckham, 52, and Nikola Ellis, 40, work part time to strike the balance in caring for their children Ruby, 6, and Eddie, 3.
"When Nikola had Ruby, I was determined to be hands-on from that moment," Mr Peckham, a graphic design teacher, said.
"I have never understood a guy who wouldn't change a nappy. I was never really focused on career. What has filled that void is being a really proud parent and being an equal partner in the relationship."
Ms Ellis, a yoga teacher, said she felt solo time with her children was a lot more focused and special than when the whole family was together. "When it's all of us together, there is a lot more action and noise. When we're alone you can really focus on what is important to them rather than keeping everyone else happy."
A survey by the Financial Services Council found 71 per cent of Australian fathers, compared with 43 per cent of mothers, spent less than four hours a day with their children dedicated to "parenting" duties.
The survey, the findings of which were released last week, included interviews with 1,200 parents. It also found 78 per cent of fathers and 59 per cent of mothers would like to spend more time with their children.