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Is it a weakness for a man to have family time if he has a big job?

Whenever people assume that railing against the patriarchy means hating all men, they’re forgetting one major reality: the patriarchy hurts men, too.

We need look no further for evidence of this than the way high profile men with big jobs are somehow expected to ignore the fact that they have children in order to hold them. 

While the crippling double-standard for working women has been famously captured by Annabel Crabbe's assertion that a working mother must "work as if one did not have children, while raising one's children as if one did not have a job," there is also the prevailing idea that in order to perform a high-stakes job, a man must be willing to ignore the fact that he has a family all together. 

It's the product of toxic masculinity on a societal scale that we expect these men to simply tough it out for the greater good.

The greater good of whom, however, remains murky.

Sir Keir Starmer — a Labour politician who will most likely very soon be the UK’s next prime minister — has this week been attacked by politicians from the opposition for comments he made during a Virgin Radio interview about carving out sacred family time in the lead-up to the national election.

Starmer — who shares two teenage daughters with his wife, Victoria, told interviewer Chris Evans on Monday: "We’ve had a structure in place that I try to keep to, which is to carve out really protected time for the kids."

"So on a Friday — I’ve been doing this for years — I will not do a work-related thing after six o'clock, pretty well come what may."


"Now there are a few exceptions, but that’s what we do."

He added: "I don’t believe in the theory that you're a better decision-maker if you don't allow yourself the space to be a dad."

His opposition, current PM Rishi Sunak was quick to disagree, claiming he hasn’t “finished at 6pm, ever," with his Conservative party declaring on X that the public "deserves better than a part-time prime minister".

Putting aside the fact that Starmer wasn't asking for a three-day week, or to dial in to Question Time from his summer cottage in the Cotswolds, but six hours, between 6pm and midnight on a Friday night, to commit himself fully to his wife and kids.

And it's not just in UK politics that this toxic attitude towards working fathers prevails. 

Watch: Dad Goals: Obama Style. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

In May, when it was announced that West Tigers coach Benji Marshall was taking a family holiday to Fiji with his wife, Zoe and their two children during a week where his team had a bye, the NRL star came under fire. 

"Do you think Craig Bellamy, he’s a 20-to-30 year coach, do you think that he goes away to Fiji?" Broncos legend Gorden Tallis said on Fox League’s NRL 360 on Monday.


"Do you think Wayne Bennett does?"

It isn't the first time Marshall has been forced to defend his commitment to being a good dad as well as a good coach.

In March of this year, a snarky column in the Daily Telegraph fired several barely-concealed jabs at his work ethic, claiming his "family first approach" meant that he wasn't a "24-7 coach".

In response, the 2010 Golden Boot winner said he "didn’t get" the criticism.

"What’s a 24/7 coach? Who says I don’t (live and breathe coaching). I come into work early before the players, work as hard as we can until we get what we need done, and then we go home."

"Because I prioritise my family between 5 and 8pm every night to find that work-life balance, it doesn't mean I don’t care about my job or working hard."

"I don’t get it... The bottom line is it’s not true."

While an outsized portion of the studies done into working parents focus on mums in the workplace, the research on working dads is clear: kids thrive when their dads put them first, regardless of the time constraints of their jobs. 

According to a 2001 study, children were more likely to show behavioural problems if their fathers were overly involved psychologically in their careers, whether or not they worked long hours. 

And it's not just children who suffer when their dads can't access family-friendly work arrangements. 


Research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that fathers who reported high work-family conflict also reported high psychological distress, and that in the workplace, access to flexibility, job security, reasonable work hours and control over work scheduling and tasks can protect fathers from work-family conflict.

Ironically, many of the voices refusing to allow even the slightest concession for working dads in high-profile jobs are the same ones citing the epidemic of male suicide in this country as proof that "feminism has gone too far" and "men are confused about the roles they are required to play in society".

Luckily, however, we have an emerging generation of men willing to move the needle for working dads everywhere. 

Thank heavens for people like Benji Marshall and Sir Keir Starmer, who are willing to withstand the brutal public attacks not only for their families, but for the right of other parents to enjoy balanced, psychologically healthy lives in which both their careers and their children are allowed to thrive. 

THAT is what I call "toughing it out" for the greater good. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: Getty.

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