Being a stay-at-home dad who wants to return to work is a lot like playing for a losing team, except that the players are few and far between, the coach is non-existent and the playing field is anything but level.
Although the rise of full-time paternal carers has substantially increased over the last decade, fathers are still a minority group. There are approximately 144,000 stay-at-home dads in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an incredibly low number when you consider that there are at least 4.4 million children in two-parent families where one parent is employed. Of these, only 3% account for employed mothers, which means that 97% of the time fathers remain the dominant breadwinners.
These circumstances are reflected in the severe lack of resources and support groups available to dads as a result. The media doesn’t help either. Despite the rise of ‘dad-vertising’, outdated representations of masculinity abound, along with typically derogatory stereotypes that continue to depict the father as incapable of even changing a nappy. The only purpose this serves is to hinder equilibrium between the sexes, reinforce whatever gender division still remains in society and uphold some semblance of separation between men and women, an issue that’s long overdue in being tackled in Australia.
So as if it isn’t hard enough for stay-at-home mums, dads have a massive series of hurdles to overcome, without even considering the whole return to work scenario. From their masculine identity being brought into question and the guilt that may come along with not providing any financial support for the family, to the loneliness, isolation and social exclusion they might experience without many other dads around in the same boat.
Making a move to get back to work can be just as discouraging. Most employers seem to empathise with mothers more than fathers, and unless you’re going to become the next big daddy blogger, or set up your own business, it often requires drastic measures to re-enter the job market, especially after you’ve been out of it awhile.
The good news is that all of those planning and organisational skills you’ve developed through full-time parenting can now be transferred into a professional context. Your ability to multi-task will definitely come in handy too.
Unfortunately though, this is also where the bad news arises. You’ll need to be prepared to give up all or most of your free time if you want to seriously dedicate yourself to the task of job-hunting in 2015. With 13.9% of 15-24 year olds unemployed in Australia at present, the competition in this country is fierce when you don’t have current industry experience.
Our advice is to literally imagine you are on that losing team. Let’s say it’s soccer. What can you do to improve your game-play and become the true underdog of the match? Develop your offensive and defensive strategy, of course.
When you’re on the offence, you never stop moving towards the goal. You will do everything in your power to keep the ball in your possession and away from your opponent’s reach. Ok, you might have been out of work for a period of time and feel out of touch, but the sooner you take back ownership of your skills and start putting them back in action, the better your chances will be when it comes to getting hired. This requires pulling out all the stops. Nearly half of all fathers with children under the age of 17 are said to be volunteering these days, so it’s a prime starting point to consider if you’ve had no luck on the job front. Depending on your previous work experience, you could also look into freelancing, casual work or further study opportunities, anything that will allow you to refresh your knowledge base and get up to speed with what’s happening in your industry.
One sure-fire way to get hired faster is to have an up-to-date qualification in your field. It could be the decisive factor in your job application. Have you heard of RPL? It’s a simple assessment that grants you a nationally recognised qualification within weeks without any classroom study. With hundreds of qualifications on offer, your chances of scoring will be much higher. You’ve got nothing to lose by taking a quick free skills review to assess your eligibility and potentially minimise any more delays in your return to work.
A good defensive strategy relies on effective communication with your teammates at all times. This is why you need to speak with anybody who could be sympathetic to your cause, be it past work colleagues, past employers, friends, family and influential members of your community. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, sign up for one and build a savvy social media resume to expand your professional network.
Don’t label yourself as a stay-at-home dad either. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s best to avoid any negative preconceptions if you can, and stick to strictly career-oriented terminology. How you appear on the surface level is the only thing a recruiter has to judge you on, so make sure you’re walking the walk and talking the talk. You’ve always got to be in game mode, and communicating the right first impression is critical to your overall defence. You’ve got to prove you have what it takes or the opposition will crush you in a heartbeat.
Best wishes with your job-hunt. It can seem like an unwinnable match, but the power is within your grasp. You just need to work out the best strategy and stick with it. If you want it badly enough, you’ll make it happen, like all great players do!