Thankfully those days are long gone, although only two per cent of Australian men become the primary carer after their child is born.
Those that do often face considerable stigma — and that’s even before they even tackle the challenges of life at home with a new baby.
But, as these six dads discovered, the rewards far outweigh anything else.
ONE minute you’re tackling complex audits. The next you’re singing nursery rhymes and packing snacks for playgroup. But, for KPMG senior manager Adam Bird, being the first face his young son Ari saw in the morning made parental leave a no-brainer.
“I worked three days a week for four months and KPMG was very supportive, actively encouraging my participation and to share my story with my peers,” the Gymea Bay dad said.
“It’s important to set an example to my son, and showing it’s possible to be a working father and a parent in today’s society.
“It is a hard juggling act, getting the balance right between a father and a dedicated colleague in a high performance environment
“The best part was just being there and for my face to be the first thing he sees in the morning.
“The time I spent at home means my bond now remains strong even after I returned to work full time.”
WHEN Kaden Ball took three months of paid parental leave from the construction industry to care for son Luka, he was told it was “career suicide”.
He prefers the term “career reset”.
“I was working for a tier one company and it was an incentive they offered. When my traditional-thinking boss found out he simply gruffed: “aren’t you worried about your job, some would consider this career suicide’,” the Narrabeen dad said.
“I think it’s a great idea for men to spend that time with their kids but Sydney living and childcare is so expensive and, without family support, time off is often not feasible.
“And career aspirations and potential would certainly be a consideration.
“I’ve never seen a guy in leadership roles take the leave — it’s still frowned on and once back at work it did me no favours for career development.
“But I loved it and it wasn’t just months of hanging out with my own kid — it was also a good chance to reset myself from work.
“I came back appreciative and ready to go.”
WESTPAC senior rick manager Shaun Poon will never forget the day his daughter Aurelia took her first steps. He was right there, waiting to catch her, having taken time off work to care for Aurelia so wife Angela could return to the workforce — and he’s barely missed a milestone since.
“I took three days a week off for the first six weeks, then one day a week off for the next three months,” the 34-year-old said.
“Aside from being there when Aurelia took her first steps — which Angela is still a bit jealous about — my fondest memories were when we just did the simplest things, like the trepidation turning to joy on her face as she rides the swing.
“But, for the first week or two, it was all about survival.
“I quickly realised that there is a big difference between helping out with changing the nappies and being responsible for my Aurelia’s welfare, day in and day out.
“After that experience I have a much deeper appreciation and respect for what my wife does for Aurelia and my wife tells me that she feels that we’ve become more equal parents since.”
Northern beaches father of two Pete Rhodes lovingly describes taking 18 weeks of parental leave to care for youngest son, Liam “the best decision I’ve ever made”.
“I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to experience first hand — and full time — the first few months of Liam’s life,” the 35-year-old PwC director of Global Tax said.
“I’ve been floored by how well my wife Clare manages to balance being an amazing mum with working … so I just wanted to be there to offer some support and to take away some of the daily burden and responsibility for a while.
“The bond you make with your children and your partner during that time can’t be underestimated — it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life and I’m so proud to have done it.
“We definitely need to break down some of the gender stereotypes around the role that men and women play in bringing up their kids.”
Jack Bell, a 31-year-old senior manager in management consulting for PwC, took 18 weeks of paid parental leave because his wife’s job didn’t have any flexibility.
“My wife started a new job while pregnant so it was only held for six months — if I hadn’t taken the time off, Charlie would’ve had to start daycare earlier and we would have had an extra 45 days of daycare to pay for,” he said.
“Times have changed where children are automatically thought to be primarily looked after by the mother.
“We had days where I exercised before Charlie woke up, we played, we walked, we cooked, I cleaned the house and managed to have dinner on the table at the end of the day — some days, not so much though.
“He doesn’t talk yet but he often looks at me, smiles and says da-da — I won’t forget the feeling that gives me.
“It’s important to start the conversation — if you fear your boss may not be supportive, list the reasons why it’s important and plan how you see it working for you and the business.”
IT’S amazing what can be achieved during a baby’s 40-minute nap — just ask Lendlease worker Dion Palin, who mastered multi-tasking after taking 12 months paternity leave to care for son Nicolas.
“My wife had recently started working on a self-employed basis with no access to paid leave, but my ability to access parental leave gave us choices,” the 39-year-old said.
“I took 12 months’ leave, of which 18 weeks was paid. Looking after Nicolas was many opposite things at the same time — it was naturally hard but also very enjoyable.
“Days could be fun but at the same time quite tedious.
“I recall feeling hugely relaxed because I wasn’t at work but at the same time looking after a newborn baby is quite stressful.
“I spent a lot of time trying to get Nicolas to sleep with some kind of routine and rushing around in that 40-minute window to make myself lunch, sterilise bottles or hang or fold the never-ending stream of washing.
“I also noticed that the time was a little bit lonely … the kind of social network that is available for new mums, like mothers’ groups, is not really available for men, so I think it is a little bit different for them.”
Originally published as Mother of a job being Mr Mum...Read more