“Dad guilt” but fathers chip in more during COVID-19, says survey of over 2,400 fathers
Christine Leow // June 9, 2020, 6:42 pm
A Focus on the Family survey of over 2,400 fathers revealed that fathers are able to cope well with their work-life balance with flexible work arrangements, and these arrangements can give dads more opportunities to spend time with their kids. Photo by 孫 羚蘋 from Pexels.
A Focus on the Family Singapore survey of more than 2,400 fathers has revealed that more fathers in Singapore have stepped up their involvement at home, although nearly six in 10 also experienced feelings of “dad guilt”.
This suggests that flexible work arrangements may give fathers the opportunity to continue being more involved with their families.
In the survey, released yesterday (June 8), 72.7% of dads indicated increased involvement with their family, with 85.3% of them connecting more with their children during this period.
More than six in 10 say this is because they spent more time at home.
Only a small group of fathers – 4.9% – reported a decrease in involvement at home, with the most common reason cited being work in essential services.
Circuit Breaker allowed for family time
In the survey, 42.8% of the fathers said they shared child caregiving responsibilities with their wives more or less equally.
This is higher than the results of another Focus on the Family Singapore survey released on April 30. In that survey which involved over 1,000 mums, only 28.4% of the women said that child caregiving responsibilities were equally shared by their husbands.
Explaining the difference, Family Life Specialist, Raphael Zhang, shared that dads may perceive “equal child caregiving responsibility” differently than mums.
“This indicates an opportunity for husbands and wives to clarify and calibrate their expectations on sharing responsibilities in this area,” he said of families in which this is the case.
Fathers recognised the needs of their wives and children, and were already prioritising family over work.
“If couples are able to have honest and healthy conversations about these responsibilities, this would bode well for their marriage and family in the longer term as we enter the post-Circuit Breaker season.”
The difference, Zhang pointed out, could also be due to the different phases families were in when the surveys were done.
Data collection for Survey for Mums 2020 was concluded two weeks into the Circuit Breaker period. At that time, the nation was facing a lot more uncertainties.
Data for Survey for Dads 2020 was collected towards the end of the Circuit Breaker. By that time, families would have experienced more stability, having had more time to get used to a new routine and more opportunities for fathers to be involved at with their children.
What was positive was the fact that the survey revealed that fathers already recognised the needs of their wives and children, and that they were prioritising family over work, even before the Circuit Breaker forced them to be at home.
The Circuit Breaker allowed fathers time at home and, therefore, the opportunity to share responsibilities with their wives and connect with their children more.
“Dad guilt” not necessarily bad
“There has been a lot more attention on ‘mum guilt’ than on ‘dad guilt’,” said Zhang.
“Dad guilt” may not be all bad. Seven out of 10 dads scored their stress levels at six and below.
“However, the results show that a sizable number of fathers experience guilt when they think about how they are doing as dads.”
A total of 59.1% reported they experienced “dad guilt” with the most common source of the guilt being “not having enough time for my children due to work”.
Explaining why “dad guilt” may see an increase during this season, Zhang said: “An increase in opportunities for fathers to be more involved during the Circuit Breaker could have also led to more fathers becoming aware of the missed opportunities to grow closer to their children.”
But this may not be a bad thing. Seven out of 10 dads scored their stress levels at six and below, while eight out of 10 did not “feel sad most of the time”.
“Dad guilt” may actually serve as a healthy motivator for fathers to invest more time and effort in building their relationship with their children, noted Focus on the Family.
Two out of three fathers said they were satisfied with their work-life balance during the Circuit Breaker.
But they still had concerns.
Flexible work arrangements may give fathers the opportunity to continue being more involved with their families.
Top among their struggles were “coping with work and family responsibilities”, “financial pressures,” and “managing my child(ren)’s behaviour and/or problems”.
Apart from financial pressures, mums in the survey done in April experienced the same stresses.
The top three factors that dads singled out that would help them be more involved at home were “earning more money to provide for my family”, “having more time to spend with my children”, and “being able to manage my child(ren)’s behaviour and/or problems well”.
The survey is in line with a recent EngageRocket survey that found that nine in 10 employees want to continue working from home in some capacity. One of the main reasons they cited was so that they could spend more time with their families.
Appreciating fathers for efforts during pandemic
To affirm fathers for their efforts in stepping up to keep the family strong during the Circuit Breaker, Focus on the Family Singapore is running their annual Father’s Day campaign with the theme: Stronger with Dad.
“The stigma that working from home may result in lower productivity could possibly be what’s holding fathers back.”
The campaign encourages fathers to discover their unique strengths and build upon them.
Board Chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore, Jason Wong, emphasised the importance of society and communities supporting dads in stepping up to become more involved.
Said Wong: “Our survey seems to indicate that dads are able to cope well with their work-life balance with flexible work arrangements, and these arrangements can give dads more opportunities to spend time with their kids and to share child caregiving responsibilities more equally.
“While dads desire flexible working arrangements, the current stigma that working from home may result in lower productivity could possibly be what’s holding fathers back from actively taking up these arrangements.”
Held between June 11 and 22, 2020, the Father’s Day campaign will be conducted entirely online. There will be stories from everyday fathers on the struggles and victories of fatherhood shared on social media, podcasts, and also a special Facebook Live episode.
Online activities for children to chart the milestones and achievements of their father’s journey will also be available.