What it means to be a modern father

According to a report by McCrindle Research in 2013, fathers make up 20 percent of Australia’s population.

According to the report, around 4.6 million fathers were recorded in 2013. Out of this group, 156,000 fathers are responsible for raising their children on their own.

The report discovered that first-time fathers are older than previous generations, with the average age of a father being 33.1 years old.

Interestingly, the report found that the average time spent by mothers and fathers caring for their child has not changed between the years 2006 and 1997, with mothers spending 8.5 hours and fathers spending four hours, respectively.

However, the way men allocate their time to spend with their children has changed.

The report states that fathers are less inclined to be skilled in constructing a playhouse, repairing a faucet or a flat tire, but are more inclined to replace a baby’s diaper, prepare a cake for a birthday celebration, launder clothing, and transport the children to school.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has found that the number of dads using flexible work hours to care for their children has doubled since the mid-90s, with around 30 percent of dads under the age of 12 looking after their children for around 20 percent of their working hours. The report also notes that 16 percent of Australian men feel that their family and work responsibilities are never or rarely in balance.

Additionally, there has been a fivefold increase in the proportion of fathers working part-time, rising from one percent to five percent. Moreover, the percentage of fathers working remotely to take care of their children has also doubled, climbing from seven percent to 14 percent.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), the proportion of fathers who took time off work after their child was born rose from 31 percent in 2004 to 49 percent in 2015.

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Although the statistics appear promising for fathers, Dr. Machin emphasizes the difficulties that modern fathers are encountering.

She states, “after the birth of their child, very limited options are provided and the primary wage earners are fathers, indicating that we still have a system and culture that offers little support.”

The workplace has not evolved to think that it is normal for a dad to take time off to be with his child, so men often face difficulties when asking for flexible working or leave. There might be more leave available where it is considered normal for a dad to take time off to be with his child.

“They are compelled to be the 1950s breadwinning father and the contemporary involved father. The notion of having it all.

Trying to accomplish both tasks to the best of their ability can result in overwhelming pressure.

“Men are just as biologically predisposed to be parents as women are,” states Dr. Machin.

According to her explanation, there is an increase in grey and white matter in the brain areas associated with goal orientation and planning, problem solving, empathizing, risk detection, and nurturing in new fathers, similar to mothers.

“These are all abilities that parents need to take care of their children and ensure their safety,” she states.

There is also a decrease in testosterone around the period of the birth.

She states, “The descent is crucial to redirect the man’s attention towards the household, which is observed in all creatures where the father remains present and nurtures his offspring.”

We know that men with lower testosterone are more sensitive to the emotional and physical needs of their child and are more motivated to care for them.

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Regarding the kind of father men will become, they simply have to look to their own father, clarifies Dr. Machin.

Twin studies have shown that around 80 percent of the environment influences individuals, while the remaining 20 percent is genetically inherited.

A man is greatly influenced by fatherhood, whether he encounters it as a child or fathers his own child, his knowledge of it is influenced by other fathers.

Becoming a father can certainly be one of the rights of owning up to the wrongs, and it doesn’t necessarily mean being a bad driver or crossing generations.

How dads bond with their babies

Building a connection with their newborns due to the hormones linked to childbirth, mothers gain an early advantage, whereas for certain fathers, it may require a little more time to form that profound emotional attachment.

“Males need to foster their connection through interaction,” states Dr. Machin.

At first, this can be challenging, as infants are unable to engage in two-way communication, so there may be a pause in the development of a connection between father and baby.

“This worries some fathers, but we attempt to ready them for it and inform them that it will happen.

Once the baby reaches a stage of development where they can engage in activities like babbling, laughing, smiling, and playing, both the baby and the father experience a surge of bonding chemicals, resulting in the formation of a two-way relationship.

This is a key bonding behavior, and around six months, babies become capable of starting to play with their dads, but one of the key behaviors in the early days is baby massage, which can help.

I encourage all dads to try playing in this way with their children, as it is particularly good for bonding with the baby and releasing hormones, especially through rough and tumble play.

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Dads matter to sons and daughters

While it is important for dads to be present in their children’s lives, Dr. Machin says it is equally important for them to establish a bond in the flexible work arrangements, which is why it is important.

She states, “fathers play a larger role in their child’s mental health than moms, and they have a special role in the social sphere because they have skills such as executive functions, trust, and sharing empathy, which contribute to the development of pro-social skills and language skills.”

“They are the ones to educate about resilience, handling failure, evaluating risk, and facing challenges.”

Dr. Machin adds that while confidence and assertiveness play a particular role in the lives of daughters, they are also important for sons.

“According to her, parents wield an imbalanced impact on their daughter’s educational and professional achievements, their connections, and their psychological well-being.”

Support dads to do their job

Dr. Machin states, “Unfortunately, society has been slow to keep up with these changes in parenting, even viewing parents as dispensable or secondary beings.”

“Governments and healthcare sectors have been sluggish in their support for fathers and in recognizing their equal role as a parent.”

So, how can we provide the optimal assistance to fathers?

“Firstly, by considering them as an equal participant in the process of giving birth and raising children,” she states.

“By acknowledging that parents share a special connection with their child and that the child will have their own concerns, questions, and needs.”

“As a community, we must cease labeling fathers as either incompetent or absent.

“Because truly this is not the person our father is.

We all need to understand what benefits the next generation and brings to their families, especially their dads.

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