Taking Time to Father
By Michael Grose
It is a sign of the times that a number of high-profile men have
terminated or interrupted their careers to spend more time with their
The former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Tim Fischer, resigned to
spend time with his wife and kids. Tim, the politician famous for his
Akubra hat and open honesty, walked away from the deputy leadership just
as he reached the high point of his political career.
Geoff Marsh, the Australian cricket coach, found leaving his children
while he accompanied the team on a tour of Sri Lanka so difficult, he
didn't complete the tour. He turned his back on what he described as 'the
best job in the world' and a lucrative salary, to spend more time with his
Former Australian West Coast Eagles Football Club coach Mick Malthouse
is another man who made an unwanted career change citing family reasons.
Counting the cost of a time-consuming job he remarked in an interview that
he was the absent figure in the family photos celebrating children's first
communions and other important events that adorn the walls of the
These three men held positions where there was little opportunity to
seek a balance. It was all career work or nothing in each case.
These high profile figures are not in a minority group when it comes to
wanting more family time. According to a poll commissioned by Melbourne's
Herald Sun newspaper, 40% of Australian fathers believed that they didn't
spend enough time with their children. This compared with 21 per cent of
women who believed they didn't spend enough time with their
According to Professor Graeme Russell, one of Australia's authorities
on work & family issues, fathers under 35 are those who struggle most
with the work & family balancing act. They usually have young children
who demand their attention, but many are in the career or
business-building phases and they are caught between two competing
demands. It is men rather than women who are now driving the work &
family debate as they look for solutions to their balancing dilemmas.
Recently during a workplace seminar that I conducted, nearly half the
fathers present admitted that they had spent part of the previous weekend
at work. This was normal practice for their company, and that didn't
include the time they spent at home attending to company matters. I
suspect this pattern is repeated in workplaces throughout Australia.
It may be unrealistic to expect men to abandon their jobs, or severely
wind back working hours for the sake of their families. Pure economic
reality doesn't give many men that luxury. However, by making small
changes to work schedules it is possible to have a significant impact on
parenting and improve a man's sense of satisfaction as a father.
Some small changes fathers can consider that are high on impact
1. Adjusting work schedules to allow you to be home early a couple of
days a week to pick kids up from school or just to be present at
mealtimes. One busy father of two pre school children starts work at seven
two days a week so that he can be home by four o'clock and be involved in
this hectic part of the day.
2. Becoming a reading dad at school or a fruit dad at pre-school on a
regular basis. Children love it when their dads are involved in these
aspects of their world. It is by doing the seemingly mundane things such
as picking kids up from school or pre-school or attending a parent-teacher
interview that you get an insight into their lives. Don't wait for a
second hand account from your partner.
3. Placing important children's events and activities in your diary and
plan your work around them. I have missed some of my children's special
school events including a father's night because I was too preoccupied to
place them in my diary.
4. Establishing a routine, such as reading a story before bed that
brings you close to your child. Kids generally look forward to special
times with their fathers and often associate their fathers with shared
Fathers who feel frustrated with heavy workloads, and lack of time to
spend with children, can still share the enterprise of child-rearing. You
do not have to become involved in the minutiae of your child's life to be
an effective dad. You do however need to be present to gain an
understanding of the world that your child inhabits and to create some
lasting memories for both you and your child.
About the author: Michael Grose is a parenting and
work-life balance specialist who always makes good sense. Michael helps parents
raise happy, confident kids and resilient young people, through his parenting
courses, seminars, keynote presentations, books and articles. Visit his website