Work life balance

These days, dads are generally expected to be far more involved in their children’s care than they used to be. While this can vary from family to family depending on a range of factors, many new dads realise the important role they play in caring for their kids and in supporting their partner and genuinely want to be involved.

Many dads enter into their new role hoping and expecting to achieve a balance between caring for their partner and the new bub while also providing for the family. However, life is rarely as simple or straightforward as we want it to be.

Families need money to live, so at least one parent will usually be expected to be involved in paid work. The way expecting and new parents balance their home life with the need to earn a living can have a major impact on their relationship and their family. There is no right way and no wrong way. Every family is different. The important thing is for parents to be open about how they feel about going to work or staying at home so any conflicts or differences of views can be discussed and addressed.     

Roles at home

Often a good starting point for discussions around achieving a healthy balance between work and caring duties is to look at both parents’ roles within the family and the home. If both parents can see that the other one genuinely wants what’s best for the baby and the family, they are better placed to agree on a path towards achieving this.

We know that parents who are satisfied with the role they are playing and know their partner is also satisfied are more likely to work successfully as a family. Any combination can work, as long as both parties feel they are contributing and that the other is as well. Achieving a balance between caring for the bub and earning a living could mean:

  • dad works full time and mum stays at home
  • dad works part time in the early days so he can be available for caring duties and appointments
  • dad looks after the baby full time and mum works
  • both parents work part time and share home duties.

As long as both parents are happy with the arrangement the family will be more likely to thrive. Same-sex couples and single dads will face a range of other issues to negotiate, but doing so successfully still comes down to agreeing what’s best for everyone including the baby, and managing work and life commitments to enable that.   

Conflicting ideas of roles

Many dads assume they will be working in a paid role and mum will stay at home with bub – at least until the little one is old enough for mum to go back full or part time. Dads often justify this assumption by telling themselves they’ll help out at home as well.

While this arrangement can work, dads should try to understand that mum might have her own views about work.  She might have had a wonderful career before becoming a mum which she misses. She might be struggling with feelings of loss or resentment about the pause in her career, and feel anxious about what it means for her working future. She might struggle with her new identity as a mum.

If dad going back to work means he becomes less involved in home or caring duties, it’s not surprising that this can sometimes contribute to mum’s feelings of sadness or dissatisfied. It is important to remember that caring for a baby is a 24/7 job so there will still be work for you to do once you get home from work.

We know that managing work and the potential conflict that can arise around this issue can affect the emotional and mental health of both parents. Being as open and honest about your feelings as possible can go a long way towards solving any problems that arise. Take time to try to see it from your partner's point of view. If either of you experience feelings of anxiety or depression that lasts for more than 2 weeks it's time to reach out for help. You might start by calling PANDA's Helpline 1300 726 306 (Mon to Fri, 9am - 7.30pm AEST), talking to a friend or GP.