By Raising Children Network
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Parents with toddler

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Australian research shows that 25% of fathers of kids aged 4-5 years worked 55 hours or more per week. On average, these fathers spent 2.2 hours with their child each day, compared to 2.9 hours for fathers working 35-44 hours per week.


Many dads feel they don’t have enough time for family because of their work. It’s possible to get the balance right, though. A good first step is working out what’s most important to you and your family.

How to get the balance right

There is no one ‘perfect’ balance. Every family is different. So it’s important to start by talking with your partner about the type of parents you both want to be. Your chances of finding a good balance are greater when you work together.

Here are some ideas from other dads to help you build on this foundation.

Take some time off when your baby is born
This will give you the chance to help care for your child – getting up in the night, feeding, dressing and changing nappies, as well as playing and reading. As you rack up the ‘flying hours’, you’ll find your parenting skills and confidence levels growing.

Our 10 tips for new dads has more on making the most of time off work to get to know your baby. You can also read about Dad and Partner Pay – two weeks of government-funded parental leave for eligible dads in the first year following birth or adoption.

Be conscious of your time
Keeping a timesheet for a week or so might help you become more conscious of how you spend your time. Once you know exactly what you do with your days, you can work out whether you’re spending enough time on the really important things – like your kids. You can also see whether you need to change your habits and routines to make time for them.

Try to make some special ‘dad time’ each day, doing things your kids want to do. It’s a great way to listen to them, find out about their world, and show them you’re interested.

Be actively involved in your children’s everyday routines and their special occasions. For example, when you can, take them to playgroup, drop them at child care or school, volunteer for parent help, or help with homework, sport or music. Work with your partner to plan birthday parties and special family outings.

As your kids get older, their needs will change. You might need to change your timetable to suit.

Last but not least, leave some regular time for yourself. This will help you have plenty of energy for your kids.

Take advantage of the time with your kids. Don’t allow it to pass by without being involved and enjoying the moments. This time will pass very quickly, and you can’t have it over again.
– Richard, children aged 18 and 23

Work at getting the balance right
The balance between work and family won’t just happen. You’ll probably have to work at it.

Talking to your employer is a good start. Tell them how important being a dad is to you and ask about family-friendly policies. You can also look at the hours you work. Is there room for change? Working part-time for a few months might be a good solution.

You can break down the barrier between work and home by telling your kids about your work – where it is, what you do, what happened to you today. You could call them from work, or take them in and show them around.

Before you get home from work, do things that prepare you to be with your kids. This could be listening to some music or going for a short walk. This ‘transition time’ can help you move more smoothly from work to home life.

Your friends might have some good ideas about balancing work and family. You could also take a look at our article on making the daily switch from work to home.

Benefits of a good balance

Children with dads who are involved and interested in their lives are more likely to feel secure, confident and happy. Warmth and physical affection from fathers is associated with higher self-esteem and fewer social and emotional problems in children.

A good work-family balance also lets you develop better relationships with your child and your partner. One Australian study found that fathers who were happier in their relationship with their partner also spent more time playing with their child and involving children in everyday activities.

If you have a fulfilled family life, you’re likely to be happier at work. A strong commitment to both work and family can give you satisfaction and fulfilment in both areas of your life.

What dads want

As a dad, you might be trying to balance some of the following:

  • enjoying time with your children while they’re young
  • developing a strong relationship with your children
  • sharing your children’s care
  • earning enough money to do the things you want to do
  • enjoying and having satisfaction from your work
  • being a positive influence on your children – guiding, teaching and supporting them.

Video Dads’ changing roles

This short video is about the changing role of fathers in raising children. Dads talk about being stay-at-home dads and getting more involved in caring for their children. They also share their experiences of being more involved in parenting than their own fathers were.
A recent Australian survey found 87% of fathers said parenting was very or extremely rewarding and fulfilling. About the same number also said that parenting was very or extremely demanding!
  • Last updated or reviewed 09-08-2011
  • Acknowledgements

    Article developed in collaboration with Dr Richard Fletcher, Leader, Fathers and Families Research Program.