Australian Dads: From “Shrimp on the Barbie” To “Playing With Barbie”

In Australia, gender-based parenting roles are evolving – and the traditional, disciplinarian dad is becoming a thing of the past.

In Australia, gender-based parenting roles are evolving – and the traditional, disciplinarian dad is becoming a thing of the past. Dads there are hands-on, present, patient and understanding. And compared with their own fathers, they see themselves as less strict, feared, distant and work-focused. They take pride in being more engaged and emotionally connected with their kids.

These insights are from a study just launched by Nickelodeon Australia, “Wait Until Your Father Gets Home,” which explores the role of dads in Australian families.  In the past, the project’s title was perceived as a threat to kids. Today, that time with Dad is a reward.

The softer qualities that dads in Australia emphasize are blurring the parenting norms of yesterday. When asked what attributes a good dad should possess, they said being caring, involved, understanding, empathetic, available, a good listener and dependable. Most see their roles as protector (88%), mentor (85%) and teacher (81%).

The study found that 69% of dads say caregiving is divided equally. For many, it’s a struggle to balance the roles of caregiver and breadwinner. Moms and society at large expect dads to put family first and do their fair share at home. At the same time, the workplace expects dads to place career first by putting in longer hours and being available around the clock. Almost half (45%) of dads said they feel overwhelmed by how much they have to do.

Dads’ portrayal in the media was another topic this project explored. A majority of respondents agreed that marketers and content creators should represent dads’ greater involvement in parenting, and acknowledge that they are involved in all aspects of decision-making regarding their kids.

Over 4 in 10 (42%) of respondents agree that the media portrays dads as stupid or clueless, and 56% say marketers and content creators need to evolve in order to depict accurately their involvement in household and parenting roles. Half agree that the media should depict dads as sensitive and nurturing by portraying them interacting with their kids, enjoying a variety of activities with them, and reflecting the fact that kids need them just as much as their mother.

The stereotypical portrayal of the Aussie beer-drinking, barbecuing dad should be relinquished to the past. To best illustrate today’s Australian dad, marketers and content creators should portray dads playing with their children, being a hero to their kids and taking pride in their child’s progress. They should show how fatherhood gives them permission to reconnect with their own inner child.

Put another way, Paul Hogan’s famous “Put a shrimp on the barbie” should evolve into “Playing with Barbie” to truly reflect today’s Australian dads.