One of the most significant transformations of the 21st century is the changing face of parenthood.
Largely gone are the long-established gender stereotypes that saw mothers and fathers adhering to societal expectations of their parenting roles.
The role of a modern parent is much more diversified, with mums and dads now fulfilling a range of non-traditional duties. While a large focus is put on the impacts of these changes for mums, this change has been greatly significant for men.
The new age dad is a far cry from his predecessor. He is more emotionally available, engaged and involved in his child’s upbringing. In some cases, he is still the primary breadwinner, particular in the child’s early years, but he is also the nappy changer, the lullaby singer, the school dropper, the cook, and an omnipresent figure in his children’s lives.
The Australian dad landscape
Today, in spite of pressing work demands, Australian dads are striving to spend more time with their children.
According to a study by Australian Bureau of Statistics, since the mid 1990s, the number of dads opting for the work from home option has increased from 7% to 14%. Similarly the percentage of dads working part-time to make time for their children rose from 1% to 5 %.
Another survey that reported dads today spend seven times more time with their kids than fathers 40 years ago.
Despite these attempts to increase their level of involvement, juggling work and family commitments leaves many dads feeling that they are still not doing enough for their kids.
It seems it’s a sentiment that’s shared by their offspring, with a study by Australian National University showing children between the ages of 11 and 13 felt that they did not get to spend enough time with their dads. They blamed their dad’s long working hours, and weekend shifts for the lack of quality time.
Why time with your children is essential
As every working dad is no doubt aware, in spite of the hardships that balancing work and family commitments bring, there are many benefits associated with spending time with their children, including:
- Protects your child’s health – Aside from the obvious emotional benefits that spending time together can bring, a dad’s presence can also improve his child’s health. Research has shown that a dad’s absence could severely impact telomeres – vital pieces of DNA that protect cells, the shortening of which is linked to premature ageing and cancer.
- Improves your child’s IQ – A strong dad involvement is also linked to enhanced IQ and better career prospects. Having an engaged dad in their lives can make children more socially aware, and friendly.
- Improves your child’s self-esteem – One of the most important gifts a dad can give his children is time. The level of a dad’s involvement in his child’s life is directly proportional to the latter’s sense of self-esteem. A loving and engaged father presence enables a child to grow up to be a stronger and more self-assured human being.
- Being a positive male role model – More often than not, the first male role model in a child’s life is their father. Reports indicate that boys and girls with a strong dad presence in their lives grew up with more self-control, were confident and realised their self-worth.
How to spend more quality time with your children
As a working dad, half the battle is won just by being there and being involved in your children’s lives, But if you are looking for ways to make the time spent more exciting, fun and better quality, here are some suggestions:
- Read to your child: In today’s world of quick one-minute videos and social media, reading is slowly becoming a thing of the past. A couple of times each week, ditch all gadgets, even the kindles and pick up a book to read to your child. Reading is not only an interesting way to engage a child, but it also boosts concentration and improves imagination. And it’s not just for young children, with older children also benefiting from parents reading with them.
- Initiating dad dates: Dad dates are a novel way to get more quality time with your children. The idea is to mark a day where the only work you do (if you can call it that) is spending time with your child, and having no other distractions. Plan a trip to a new place or try out a walking/trekking trail, go to a new restaurant, or get your hands dirty building a home of mud. Dad dates are a sure way of making some unforgettable memories.
- Take a trip: Travelling can be an enriching experience. But travelling with your child is a great way to bond and create long-lasting memories.
- Review your work behaviour: Sometimes, it’s difficult not to bring the pressures of the office into the home. But in the long run, the practice of putting work in the backseat when at home will pay rich dividends.
Here are some good habits that you can adopt:
- Switch off or put your mobile on silent and stop messages or emails from disturbing your bonding time with your children.
- Try and avoid overtime or staying late in the office, at least for a few days each week, and instead plan activities with your children.
- Whenever possible, try doing school pick-ups or drop-offs, as these are a great time to have personal and in-depth conversations with your children.
Whether you’re a father, step-father, grandfather or just the main male role model in a young child’s life, making time for them is vitally important. Research has shown the value that having a positive male figure can have, so enjoy and cherish the time spent helping shape their future.