A Melbourne stay-at-home dad has used Father’s Day as a launching pad to discuss an issue close to the hearts of many parents: Australia’s attitude towards stay at home dads.
Michael Wilson, from Bonbeach, has been a stay at home dad since his first child was born, a move that ended up really improving his wife’s career prospects. According to Mr Wilson, making it easier for men to actually stay at home with their kids would in turn be a positive step towards workplace equality for women.
“We have to address how we look at the role of dads for women to truly make headway in the workforce,” Mr Wilson told Nicole Chvastek on 774 ABC Melbourne.
In particular he was talking about the perception that stay-at-home dads don’t really belong in our society.
“The response ranges from being completely ignored by the community or treated as somewhat of a novelty — there’s no in between,” he said.
He’s not the only person who thinks this is the case either. Samoan McCurdy, a researcher from Monash University, surveyed close to 1,000 dads on their thoughts about being a stay-at-home dad.
“About 85 per cent of them said they would like to be the primary caregiver for their child,” Ms McCurdy told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Red Symons.
However, despite that massive percentage, less than 7% of those she had surveyed had actually taken the plunge, with most being concerned that they would not be able to manage financially.
“What we found was their role as a primary breadwinner often hinders them from being able to step into that role,” she said.
In Mr Wilson’s case, his decision to become a stay-at-home dad made more sense for their family unit as his wife earned more than he did, and he wasn’t satisfied with his job. Although he recognised Ms McCurdy’s survey, he said that it wasn’t just money that was stopping men from becoming stay-at-home dads.
He felt that men were often unfairly victimised, and treated with suspicion when they were around children in public.
“All the nasty stuff that you hear, abuse and violence towards children, it’s largely perpetrated by men so people are naturally suspicious,” he said.
Mr Wilson also faced a number of challenges of his own in adapting to his role. He felt very much like an outsider, and still does, particularly in the maternal and child health systems.
“I think by its very name it’s about mothers and babies and I think that needs to change, I think dads need to be more welcome in that environment.”
Despite all this Mr Wilson said that he loved being a stay-at-home dad, and didn’t worry about the fact that he might never go back to work full-time. He was happy to be responsible for the house, but hopes in the future the community will be “a bit more accepting”.