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'I was trying to do everything and failing': 6 dads on how the pandemic changed their parenting.

As lockdown restrictions forced families to work and study together at home, many dads found themselves doing more childcare than ever before. 

Research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies published in May 2019 showed that the number of hours fathers spent at work remained the same after having kids.

Then along came COVID-19.

Watch: If my dad was a smart home speaker. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

So, has the pandemic changed how dads feel about work and parenting? Mamamia spoke to six dads to find out if anything has changed in their approach - and attitudes - to fatherhood. 

1. Simon, dad to Oliver (9), Thomas (7) and Harry (4)

Aside from the odd break to go fishing, Simon spent lockdown at home with his boys as wife Natalie is an essential health worker.

“It was hard at first as I was trying to do everything at the same time and then failing,” Simon said.

“Once we got the two older boys set up on desks in the dining room next to mine, we got into a rhythm.”

When Simon was in charge, he would establish the boys’ daily schedules before tackling his own. Four-year-old Harry presented some challenges but did get involved when possible with afternoon creative activities.

“I really enjoyed seeing where the boys are up to with their work and how they learn so differently. 

“I used to always be rushing and seeing them as ‘the kids’ but I was able to gain so much more insight into their different natures. It’s taught me a lot about how I need to parent them as individuals in the future.”

2. Ben, dad to Holly (6 months)

Ben had not been expecting to spend quite so much time with baby Holly and wife Helen, who is on maternity leave.

“While I have to start checking my emails from 8.30am, I can enjoy some baby playtime or help with nappy changes or feeds during my breaks,” Ben said.

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“Being at home more and spending extra time with the family has also made me realise how much I’ll miss this and how quiet the house will be when Holly starts daycare next month.

Listen: On This Glorious Mess, Holly debates whether she can tell her kids there are still restrictions to avoid their many activities. Post continues.

Ben is planning on having one day a week home with Holly once Helen returns to work.

“I always knew parenting was hard but seeing it up close – not just at bath and bedtime - has confirmed it. I’m much more realistic about what I’ll be able to achieve on the day I’m home with Holly."

3. Paul, dad to Liam (9)

Now that son Liam is back at school and Paul is back at work, he recognises how easy it could be to slip back into old patterns.

“What I really loved about us all being at home during lockdown was that at 4.30pm I would turn off the computer and we’d have a family walk or skate around the local neighbourhood while chatting,” Paul said.

“Prior to COVID-19 I wouldn’t leave work until after 5pm when it's dark, and I've realised there's really no reason for that. 

“I don’t want to lose the family bonding time we have enjoyed.”

4. Tim, dad to Hugo (3)

Tim and Hugo. Image: Supplied. As a part-time communications officer and student, Tim was already quite familiar with ‘the juggle’ as wife Lou works full-time.

“Prior to lockdown, Hugo had a mix of daycare and grandparent care, other than on the day I had him,” Tim said.

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“As soon as the news started to get really scary we decided to keep Hugo at home, so I tried to make sure I had a plan each day. We did plenty of scooter rides to the local café for coffee and milkshakes. 

“Lou had a lot of online work meetings and if we were home, Hugo would want to know why he couldn’t talk to mum which was stressful.”

All that extra time outdoors with his son meant that Tim did discover how much Hugo understood about lockdown life.

“I would tell him why playgrounds were closed and that he had to wash his hands because of the germs and I was surprised by how resilient and perceptive he was.

“It added a whole new dimension to how I see him; I really admire the way he’s handled it all.”

5. Ardie, dad to Cameron (7) and Quinn (6) 

As husband to frontline health worker Kursten, Ardie spent a few weeks juggling his full-time job on top of homeschooling.

“Some mornings I would get up at 4am when the house was quiet to do a couple of hours of work before getting the kids ready for the day,” Ardie said.

"They are too young to work by themselves and if I had to leave them to go and answer a work call, I might come back and find them watching TV."

Now that the kids have returned to school, Ardie continues to work from home. He has welcomed the unstructured free time in the afternoons as a family.

“While it was stressful having them at home 24/7, I've really enjoyed seeing my kids more and slowing down to do more activities together.

“Prior to the pandemic I definitely had a more relaxed approach to fatherhood. Then I saw how Kursten would come home from work and sit down to do homework with the kids. 

“I could see the benefits of her more structured and disciplined approach! We have had to really connect over this time, so our relationship has benefited too.”

6. Michael, dad to Chloe (11) and Sam (10)

Michael and his kids. Image: Supplied. 

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For business owner Michael, the time at home with his two school-aged kids passed in three phases.

“During the initial phase my wife Chrystal and I were super determined to help and learn,” Michael said.

“The second phase was easy as we got into a good groove with it all. The third phase was a realisation that my lack of effort into my own work had caught up with me. By that point I couldn’t wait to get them back to school!” 

Like many of the other dads, Michael realised how busy they had been as a family pre-pandemic.

“I really liked that all the after-school events were cancelled...overall I enjoyed the time with the kids and it reminded me of my childhood in the 1980s when things were a lot simpler."

Feature image: Supplied.

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