• In response to new data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, stay-at-home dad Ian Rose tells it like it is. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
In light of the new findings by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Ian Rose reveals what stay-at-home dads really get up to each day.
By
Ian Rose

17 May 2017 - 11:28 AM  UPDATED 17 May 2017 - 5:41 PM

When it comes to sweeping generalisations about men, I’m willing to put my hands up to one or two. Inability to multi-task? Guilty as charged. (To be honest, single-tasking can present a challenge). And, yes, I’ll admit it - looking for things - and by this, I mean beyond a cursory scan, the kind of looking for things that involves, say, moving or looking underneath other things - this is not a part of my skill-set.

So far, so stereotypical.

But, when confronted with research that’s just come from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, which suggests not only that “stay-at-home-dads” are a rare breed (just four per cent of two-parent families with kids under 15), but also that those valiant few who take on the role aren’t pulling their weight when it comes to housework and childcare, I’ve got to call shenanigans.

For starters, that four per cent seems a mighty titchy proportion. I’m a stay-at-home dad myself, but I’ve never felt that much of an anomaly.

It’s true, when I turned up last week at my kids’ primary school for the special pre-Mothers’ Day afternoon of tea, hand massage and “glamour” photo-ops, I was a little surprised and disconcerted to find myself the only dad playing honorary mother while the real one was at work.

(I have to stress, my motive in going was selfless - I just wanted to shield the kids from disappointment. The pleasure I took in posing in that feather boa was minimal and I restricted myself to the savoury muffins that no-one else wanted. Turned out they were onto something. Also the massage left me with a sprained wrist that smelled of avocado.)

But most of the time, I’m not the only parent in the playground at the end of the school day who’s packing testicles. I’d say there are ten of us, at least.

For starters, that four per cent seems a mighty titchy proportion. I’m a stay-at-home dad myself, but I’ve never felt that much of an anomaly.

Waiting for the bell to ring, we nod greetings to one another, we men, then fix our attention back on our phones, while the mothers around us laugh and chatter, presumably exchanging tales of their daily triumphs in multi-tasking and finding things.

I recently became friends with a dad I met in that playground. We’re the same age, and share temperament and tastes. We went to a cafe together the other Friday and traded disappointments over coffee and hot dogs. I hope it becomes a thing. Not so much ladies who lunch as geezers who guzzle.

Afterwards, we returned to our respective homes to get on with the housework.

According to the AIFS, we home-dudes are putting in 47 hours a week of that stuff and childcare combined, which sounds like a hell of a lot to me, but is only three hours more than working mums, and a pasty comparison with the - yikes - 74 clocked up by their stay-at-home sisters.

But most of the time, I’m not the only parent in the playground at the end of the school day who’s packing testicles. I’d say there are ten of us, at least.

74 hours? What are they doing? Ironing toilet-paper? Dusting?

I’ll admit it, in terms of housework, I’ve got one or two blind spots.

There are some tasks I find therapeutic, which on a good day can take me to a state of zen. Laundry often hits the sweet spot. Even loading and unloading the dishwasher has its moments. Plus scaring the cats with the vacuum cleaner never gets old. These are the things I find myself doing a lot of while the kids are in school.

Other chores have never done it for me. Cleaning the bathroom, for instance, is something I’ll only undertake when I’m badly in need of moral credit. I’m no good at it anyway. I can never find the cloth I need, my socks get wet, the whole thing is very dispiriting.

It’s hard to say how much time I spend every day looking at the news, then worrying about it, before soothing myself with social media or something seedier, and then feeling guilty about how much time I’m wasting when I should be pitching for work, doing last year’s taxes or cleaning the bathroom, but I imagine it’s quite a lot.

74 hours? What are they doing? Ironing toilet-paper? Dusting?

At some point it will become necessary to go out for a walk. The biggest drag in being a stay-at-home-dad is the staying at home part.

Pretty soon it’s time to pick the kids up, answer their relentless questions with as open a heart and mind as I can muster and keep them from maiming one another between now and dinner, which will most likely be spaghetti-based, and will take several lifetimes for them to finish, despite all threats to withhold dessert.

By the time my partner returns from her day of breadwinning, I am spent and trying to gain some equilibrium at the dishwasher, while the children cavort, charged on ice-cream.

No matter what AIFS’ graphs say, I reckon I’m doing my bit.

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