The West

More dads opt to stay home
Dads Matthew Rose, Darren Walters and Christopher Chapman with children Samuel Rowse, Hannah-Mae, Claire Walters, Olivia Walters, Emilia Chapman and Beau Chapman. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Darren Walters laughs when he recalls his expectations of becoming a stay-at-home-dad to his two daughters three years ago.

"I thought it was going to be quite easy - they would nap in the afternoon and I would have heaps of time to do cooking and cleaning," he said.

"But as any parent would know, try to do anything for more than five minutes and there will be someone pulling on your sleeve."

Mr Walters, a business analyst from Mundijong, is among a growing number of fathers caring full-time for their children while their partners return to the workforce.

There are now about 144,000 stay-at-home fathers in Australia, more than double the 57,000 of 10 years ago, with financial or lifestyle reasons often behind the decision to swap roles.

For Mr Walters, swapping roles was a financial decision after wife Tenille was offered a good job in software support. He started caring for Olivia and Claire three years ago when they were three and almost two, and wouldn't change it for the world.

Keith Read, from Dads WA, said fathers accounted for 30 to 40 per cent of parents at parenting workshops run though Ngala. "The more time dads spend with their children in the earlier years, the better," he said.

"Mums and dads do things differently. Dads offer rough and tumble physicality, play and risk-taking."

Social demographer Mark McCrindle said greater flexibility in the workplace contributed to the trend. "It has become more socially acceptable," he said.

"As soon as you have a few people in leadership positions (who are stay-at-home dads), it becomes more respected."

He said Generation Y was also driving the change, as 40 per cent of females aged between 25 and 34 had university degrees compared with 29.7 per cent of males.

"In a lot of households, mum is on a higher income than dad."

Wellard father Matthew Rowse gave up his dog-washing business when wife Sharon was offered a local government position seven years ago.

He said some friends had initially thought he was being "lazy", but they now had an appreciation of how hard he worked.

The West Australian

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