Rising Tide Blog

Stay at home dads on the rise

Posted by Matt Hale

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The number of stay at home dads in Australia has doubled over the last 10 years.  The traditional idea that the role of childcare rests with the mother is slowly starting to melt away and increasingly, dads are putting up their hands for the opportunity to play a bigger part in the early years of their children’s life.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are just over 39,000 stay-at-home dads or men not working who list their main duty as “caring for children”, compared to over 420,000 stay-at-home mums.

Rising Tide client, Daniel Koster, with his wife Amber recently made the decision for Daniel to stay at home with their 18 month old daughter, Sadie.

Having always been passionate about exercise (and tiring of his job at the time) Daniel made the decision before Sadie was born to study to become a personal trainer, the idea being that he would be able to work flexibly once kids came along.

“We decided that since Amber earned more than me that when the time came I would stay at home with the kids and continue to earn some money off the personal training.  We figured out that if both of us were to work full time and pay for daycare that it actually wouldn’t bring in much more than if I were to stay at home,” says Daniel.

Fast forward and Daniel is doing just that.  By day he looks after Sadie having taken on the role of childcare and outside of Amber’s work hours (early mornings and nights), he trains clients.

“We live out in Diamond Creek.  We moved here in October and I’ve set up my garage as our studio and I also contract out at the City of Yarra,” he says.

With daycare costing up to $170 per day for one child (amounting to as much as $850 per week), it’s no wonder that for many families, full-time paid childcare is not a viable option.

“It’s crazy, we’ve just put Sadie in childcare one day per week and we couldn’t believe how much it is.  My dad’s a shift worker and my mum is dealing with illness so we had to come up with a different option during work hours” says Daniel.

While cost of childcare and financial reasons played a part in the decision for Daniel to stay at home with Sadie, there were other factors that influenced their decision.

“Amber does a lot of female leadership work through her job and she was very aware that if she takes too much time out of work then getting back to where she was before the baby would be difficult…If I had earned more than Amber, she still would have gone back to work but perhaps we would have both tried to go part-time instead.”

At present, 73 per cent of married women aged 25-34 in Australia are participating in the workforce compared with 37 per cent in the 1970’s.

Daniel says that friends and family have welcomed his and Amber’s decision to structure their family life the way they have.

“I have received nothing but support for my decision to take on the role of stay at home dad.  Even the parent group I go to (we’ve had to rename it parent group now that I’m in it) – all the girls are really good.  They try and include me in all the conversations.  There are some awkward moments when they’re talking about breast feeding and other female-specific issues but generally everyone’s really good about it.”

Above all, Daniel thinks he’s pretty lucky to be able to stay at home with his young daughter.

“There’s this perception that kids don’t really bond with their dads much because they’re usually back to work soon after they’re born…I’m a little bit surprised at how much I enjoy it sometimes.  Like even when she was first born, the way you feel.  This big protective mane grows out of the back of your neck.  It’s obviously not going to be the same for everyone but I just…I love it.”

As for the future, Daniel says he and Amber are planning on sticking with their current arrangement for a while.

“We’re planning on having between two and four kids and we’re aware that until the time that the youngest one is in school there’s only a limited amount I can earn because there’s only so many hours I can work.  So we’ve just got to be very sensible. The goal is that once the kids are in school I’ll have a nicely renowned studio here in Diamond Creek and I’ll hopefully be working full-time from home.”

Despite loving his new role, like all parents Daniel has his moments of self doubt.

“Having a little girl I do worry that I’m not good at doing the things like plaits in her hair and stuff like that.”

According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, around half of those who stay at home with their children do so because they prefer it to sending them to day care.  While flexible working environments, childcare subsidies and strong anti-discrimination practices will help more women remain in the workforce, statistics show that the main reason women choose to exit the workforce is because of societal preconceptions that childcare is “women’s work.”

Let’s hope that more dads like Daniel continue to step up to the plate by sharing the responsibility of childcare in whatever way is best for their family unit.

In 2002, 91.6% of executive managers were men, by 2012 it had fallen all the way to 88.5%. At this rate, by around the turn of the century we’ll get to a 50:50 split.