08 Mar 2016

A future where parenting isn’t seen as a women’s issue – but relevant to all parents

By NAB Employee, Euan.

When it comes to parenting, it’s all about partnership- not biology

Hello, I’m Euan and I am proud to work at NAB. Recently, I took 12 weeks off traditional ‘suit and tie’ type work and stayed home to look after our third child – baby Claudia.

During this hectic, food-in-hair type messy and wonderful time, I was often asked by curious onlookers “Are you working?” This was emphatically followed by “how are you coping?” when I mentioned that I was a very lucky and very able stay-at-home dad.

I was lucky in the sense that I had 12 weeks to bond with our newest baby Claudia and delight in all her first milestones- and able in the sense that I was a very fast learner – and let’s face it, parenting is a learned skill. And yes, I coped just fine.

More often than not, I was the odd one out at the local café cajoling three kids to eat their toast and stay seated. I was the only father at library story hour. And I was one of only three dads regularly picking up their children from kindergarten.

I feel very privileged that my workplace gave me three months to spend time with my greatest achievements. In 2015, my employer made 12-week paid parental leave entitlement more accessible to new dads and other non-birth parents.

And that’s how I found myself delicately balancing nappies and Dr Seuss, as my wife worked tirelessly building up her hairdressing business.

I believe that the battle against inequality will continue until we change our attitudes towards parenting. It’s important that we rebuff the “essentialisation” of motherhood and fatherhood- the idealistic notion that men and women have innate biological attributes (and that women are inherently better suited to raising infants!)

Quite frankly, I take offence to such attitudes.

We have recently seen considerable coverage of new research by Chief Executive Women and Bain on the power of flexibility as a key enabler to boost gender parity.

Indeed, parity is the UN’s theme for this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The workplace has a critical role to play in achieving gender parity when it comes to raising children. Equal access to flexible work arrangements and a culture of supporting flexible work arrangements without career impediment or repercussions – for all – are critical to achieving a more equal division of parenting.

When I approached my manager around the time of Claudia’s birth to propose taking parental leave, I was greeted with a resounding ‘yes’. My work colleagues were equally supportive and made only one request- that I visit the office often with Claudia for cuddles.

Everyone has a role to play in making parenting an issue about partnership and equal involvement.

For corporate Australia, policy options such as paid parental leave are just one way to facilitate and role model healthy attitudes around the role of parenting.

And it makes sound business sense, because happier fathers are more productive people.

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