Happy fa­ther

To be a happy fa­ther, do the chores and have two chil­dren (not one or three).

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PARENTING - By AMELIA HILL

IT will be mu­sic to the ears of work­ing moth­ers ev­ery­where: fa­thers are hap­pier when they do more of the house­work them­selves, spend more time with their chil­dren and have work­ing part­ners who are in the of­fice just as long as they are, a ma­jor new study has found.

Re­searchers hope the in­terim find­ings from the study, called Work Life Bal­ance: Work­ing for Fa­thers, will prompt em­ploy­ers to re-eval­u­ate myths about work – so that women cease to have their ca­reers blocked by bosses who as­sume they will be pri­mary car­ers of chil­dren, and men are given more op­por­tu­nity to change their work-life bal­ance.

“The way we ‘do’ fam­ily has changed - not only be­cause moth­ers are more likely to go out to work but also be­cause to­day both moth­ers and fa­thers want close re­la­tion­ships with chil­dren as they are grow­ing up,” said Dr Caro­line Ga­trell of Lan­caster Uni­ver­sity, Bri­tain, the lead re­searcher in the two-year project car­ried out for the char­ity Work­ing Fam­i­lies.

Ga­trell and her team spoke to more than 1,100 work­ing fa­thers to find out how they com­bine work and fam­ily life. Their find­ings re­veal that the de­sire for more “fam­ily time” is wide­spread, with 82% of full-time work­ing men say­ing they would like this.

“It is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent that the ex­pec­ta­tions that fa­thers have of the way and amount they are in­volved di­rectly with their chil­dren is al­ter­ing. Fa­thers want to spend more time with their chil­dren and are do­ing more of the di­rect care for them,” said Ga­trell.

The team also found ev­i­dence that so­cial at­ti­tudes to­wards child­care are in a pe­riod of pro­found change: fewer fa­thers than moth­ers, for ex­am­ple, be­lieve that it is a mother’s job to look af­ter chil­dren. “The prob­lem is that al­though fam­i­lies are chang­ing, this is largely be­ing com­pletely ig­nored by em­ploy­ers,” added Ga­trell.

“This is cre­at­ing a mas­sive prob­lem for both men and women. Women are hav­ing their ca­reers blocked by em­ploy­ers who as­sume that, once chil­dren come along, their com­mit­ment to the work­place will be se­verely com­pro­mised. But the same myth is also dis­ad­van­tag­ing men who find them­selves be­ing their child’s main or only carer, be­cause em­ploy­ers aren’t of­fer­ing them work-life bal­ance choices. It is time work­place at­ti­tudes changed to recog­nise the mas­sive changes that have taken place in fam­ily prac­tices in the 21st cen­tury.”

The find­ings also in­clude that men are very of­ten “se­ri­ously stressed” and those who have one or three chil­dren are more stressed than those who have two; fa­thers who do more house­work are less stressed than those who do a smaller amount; and fa­thers whose part­ners work full-time have a bet­ter sense of well­be­ing than those whose part­ners work part-time.

“New fa­thers are likely to be com­pletely un­pre­pared for the im­pact a child has on their lives. When num­ber two comes along, they know what to ex­pect. But num­ber three is an­other mas­sive change, es­pe­cially with the ex­tra squeeze on in­come and costs,” said Ga­trell.

She added that even though there is an “equalling up” in the do­mes­tic sphere, women still do most of the do­mes­tic work and child­care, partly be­cause fa­thers are “hit­ting some lim­its” in the time they have for work and fam­ily.

“Al­though fa­thers have expressed a de­sire to work more flex­i­bly, they do not do so in the same num­bers as women.” – Guardian News Ser­vice

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