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The year that turbocharged fatherhood

  • 21 January 2021
Major shifts occurred during 2020 to many facets of fathering and ‘what it means to be a dad’. These extraordinary changes in the home, workplace and community were reflected by the media and new research conducted over the last year.

Men, it seems, have been looking for more opportunities to spend time with family. Research on young fathers, conducted by the Diversity Council of Australia a few years ago, reported that 79 per cent of new generation dads wanted the flexibility to improve their work and family life. For all its downsides, 2020 provided the opportunities.

It’s now apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic’s ‘working from home’ and ‘home schooling’ requirements have turbocharged the pace of change.

A recent survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that from May to June 2020, 61 per cent of dads spent more time helping with learning and schoolwork; dads were doing arts and crafts, active play, video games and reading with the kids more often.

Australian research instigated by Transitioning Well came up with similar findings. De Mazio research published in December 2020, sampled 100 ‘working dads’ and found that 72 per cent of respondents had taken on more household responsibilities, both domestic and caring, during COVID-19.

Change is now sweeping through the business world with companies like Officeworks responding to men’s preferences to work flexibly from home.

"It’s now apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic’s ‘working from home’ and ‘home schooling’ requirements have turbocharged the pace of change."

Australian research on fathering gained momentum during 2020, revealing the unique ways that Australian fathers contribute to families. The Australian Institute of Family Studies, University of Newcastle and The Grattan Institute, among other research bodies, were rewriting the book on everything from dads' quality time with kids, to dads' rough and tumble play to reforming 'dad leave'.

Importantly, childcare is no longer being seen as mainly women’s responsibility. Dads school groups have sprung up everywhere to support this change. The Fathering Project, developed over the last few years, now engages over 11,000 dads and nearly 20,000 kids across 235 schools in Australia.

There was movement during 2020 away from the stereotypical portrayal of dads in the media as clueless and disconnected. Tune into the TV series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and see Peter Gallagher who plays Mitch — a dad who comforts his daughter through her reverie sequences.

And kid’s TV is changing too. While Daddy Pig does a passable job fathering Peppa and George,