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Toowoomba dads feel struggle to find time for kids

HARD AT WORK: Toowoomba father of twelve Paul Webb is not surprised to hear Australian men struggle to fit in time with their children because of work commitments. He's pictured with his daughter Nancy.
HARD AT WORK: Toowoomba father of twelve Paul Webb is not surprised to hear Australian men struggle to fit in time with their children because of work commitments. He's pictured with his daughter Nancy. Tom Gillespie

PAUL Webb knows the difficulties of fitting time in with his children around work commitments, and apparently he's not alone.

The Toowoomba father is not surprised to hear that the nation's dads are working too much and spending not enough time at home.

A new study by the Australian National University of 3000 Aussie dads found they are working longer hours - an average of 44-hours a week, with 21.5% working greater than 55-hours a week.

Fathers are spending less and less time with their children and their kids are feeling it.

More than half of dads reported missing family events because of work and one fifth described their family time more pressured and less fun because of their jobs.

Mr Webb, who is close to completing his PhD while also working part-time with the Queensland Murray Darling Commission, said he made a serious effort to spend quality time with his 12 children, including his daughter Nancy.

"I'm managing to keep work and study down to 40 hours a week, but there are occasions where it can go up," he said.

"It's incredibly easy (to get carried away) - it takes a conscious effort to pull up stumps at 5pm, and to make sure I'm home to see my family.

"There's the constant temptation to work or study a bit more."

Mr Webb admitted he even passed up higher paying roles because of the risk of more hours away from the family.

"I had to make a decision a few years ago where I withdrew from a leadership position because there was extra pressure to put in extra hours."

He said the best way for fathers to make time for both themselves and their children was to do combined activities.

"The greatest pleasure is spending time with the kids and picking the activities that include everyone.

"Music is one way and karate is another - we can all do things together."

ANU found more than 40% of dads worked nights and weekends to support their families.

A total of 17.4% of kids aged 11-13 wished their father's didn't work at all, one third said their father worked too much and a further third wanted more time with him or did not enjoy time together.

Lead researcher Professor Lyndall Strazdins said fathers' long hours on the job contributed to their children's perceptions of them.

He added the average 35-40 hour week was depleting and the trend was towards much longer or shorter hours.

"Working longer hours is preventing Australian fathers from being the dads they want to be," she said. "We delude ourselves that what happens in fathers' workplaces is somehow separate from children's lives. Time with their fathers is a problem for many children."

Topics:  australian national university dads toowoomba


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