Now that we are coming out of the pandemic tunnel the task of balancing work and family must be figured out again. Many dads have had more family time and many employers are rethinking working from home options.


What did dads say when they were asked these two simple questions? “What would you like to do more of?” and “What would you like to do less of?”

In a postgraduate course at the University of Newcastle, we asked students to interview a dad, any dad apart from a relative, and ask these questions.

The dads could name strategies such as spending less time at the gym or forgoing some other social activity and being at home more to play with their children. They could identify changes in family arrangements, the way the childcare was shared between themselves and their partner in order to increase the hours that they spent caring for the kids.

'Dad time' in lockdown -

Nearly all of the dads said they would like to spend more time with their children. That wasn’t surprising. What was a shock was the limited range of options they considered when thinking about how to have more family time with their infants or children.

In no case did they describe approaching their supervisor, HR Department or boss and asking for a change in roster a decrease in hours or any work change to give them more time to do what they said they wanted: spend more time with their children.

How comfortable would you feel asking for more family time or flexible hours?

In none of the interview transcripts did dads even wonder if they could get by with less income or if some new arrangement would allow them to change their work routine. It seemed that the work-world was fixed and any adjustments had to happen in the time leftover.

'Dad time' in lockdown -

We don’t know if the pandemic has changed the work-family balance forever but this entertaining piece by Luke Benedictus in The Father Hood argues that COVID-19 lockdowns may have at least changed employers’ perceptions of their options.

How is your work-family balance going?

There’s no right or wrong answer, and the balance is different for lots of families. However, what we know is that it’s still up to dads to ask for family time.

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Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.

Richard Fletcher

Associate Professor, PhD

Richard credits a varied career, a talented and innovative team, and much life experience for affording him the insight needed to address the challenges related to actively engaging dads.

After completing his masters in Medical Science, studying epidemiology, Richard earned his PhD focusing on fathers and attachment.

“Fathers are invisible in many places, and that is endemic. Not because people dislike fathers, but because the system is set up to be focused on mothers.”

Some services and organisations are aware of the need to engage dads, but have been unsuccessful in their attempts.

“When people are challenged about this, they generally want dads involved,” Richard affirms.

“Often, however, they just don’t know how to do it.”

Richard works with health professionals on issues related to fathers, and has delivered many antenatal programs for expectant dads.

He credits his own family with giving him an understanding of the role of fathers needed to make his work relevant.

“I have three daughters and two stepdaughters,”

“My kids would say they taught me just about everything I know and they’d be right. They’ve taught me a lot, and still do.”

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.