‘Stay at home dads not the mirror image of stay at home mums’

Stay at home dads do significantly less housework and childcare than stay at home mums, according to an Australian study.

The study shows that on average women in dual-earner couples did twice as much housework and over twice as much childcare as dads, but that dads worked 18 hours a week more than mums.

In stay at home mother families women did 37 hours each on childcare and housework and dads did 51 hours of work, compared to an average of 48 hours in dual earner families. However, in stay at home dad families mums and dads spent similar amounts of time on childcare and dads spent only a few more hours a week on housework than mums, but mums only worked on average 35 hours a week.

The researchers said this was in part due to the fact that children in stay at home dad families tended to be older so required less childcare.

The study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found the number of stay at home dads is still fairly small, accounting for around 4 per cent of two-parent families in Australia. Director Anne Hollonds said: “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.

“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 added: “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 childcare 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.”

 





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