My husband returned to work last month after spending eight weeks on paternity leave caring for our now one-year-old.
It was so beautiful to watch them together and for him to be able to spend dedicated time being a dad. Lots of people have said to us that we’re lucky – and I know we are – but surely we have gotten to the point where you shouldn’t have to be “lucky” to have access to paid paternity leave. Family planning and managing a household is a dual responsibility. We need to give men more opportunities for paternity leave, so we can structurally create more opportunity for women’s participation in the workforce and career growth.
Many companies are giving families more choice around who’ll be the primary caregiver during a child’s first year through paid parental leave policies, however research shows men are reluctant to use it.
There’s still so much stigma attached, so maybe through telling more stories we might inspire a few more men to consider using their entitlements.
We also need to include men in more discussions around parental leave as they’re still predominantly geared towards supporting women. There’s also, of course, the gender pay gap, meaning that for many households, it’s just not financially viable.
A new report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies shows that just 4.6% of two-parent families with kids under 15 have stay-at-home dads. 2016 census data reveals that there are about 80,000 families with stay-at-home dads, compared to 498,900 families with stay-at-home mums. So, although celebrating men – for doing what women do every day without any recognition – irks me a lot, I think it’s necessary in this case. The more we talk about it and acknowledge it, the more we normalise it, and that’s what needs to happen.