NEW DAD: Bastiaan Kalisvaart and his five-week-old daughter Lucie enjoy some quality time alone at home together.
NEW DAD: Bastiaan Kalisvaart and his five-week-old daughter Lucie enjoy some quality time alone at home together.

Making time for children


BASTIAAN KALISVAART knows his role as a modern day dad goes beyond cutting the roast meat for Sunday lunch.

Bastiaan, originally from the Netherlands, said there was an old Dutch saying about the role of dads.

"Kids would ask their mothers 'who's the fellow who cuts the meat?' The only time they saw their fathers, who worked six days a week, was for Sunday lunch and his only job at home was to cut the meat," he said.

When the press engineer's daughter Lucie was born five weeks ago he said he was determined to share the child-rearing responsibilities with his wife Shannon.

"The role of women has changed in the past 30 years and men have to adapt. It's about equality. My wife works part-time, she needs me to help her out," the 29year-old Coraki man said.

This weekend thousands of dads across the Northern Rivers like Bastiaan are celebrating Father's Day and many of them will be gathering at The Fatherhood Festival at Bangalow.

Dr Bruce Robinson, festival guest and author of national best-seller Fathering in the Fast Lane, said men of the 21st Century acknowledged the need for being good dads but had never been taught how.

The lung cancer specialist said his male patients often told him their biggest regret was not spending enough time with their children.

"Men are always going to have a fight with time but they've got to commit themselves to spending time with their children," he said.

"You can't sit around and complain that you don't have the skills to be a good father. If you want to learn how to play golf you get lessons. The same goes with parenting."

Dr Robinson said statistics showed children whose dads were not around were double the risk of drug addiction, self-esteem problems, difficulties at school and depression.

"Some kids do just fine without their dads and it's usually because they have fantastic mothers to make up for it," he said.

"Men can't just spend quality time with their kids. It's from quantity that we get quality moments."

Bastiaan said as a child he was lucky to have his father around.

"My grandfather worked in the factories and was never home. Dad said he never wanted that for his children and I don't want it for mine either," he said.

'Belly-time' is one way Bastiaan spends time with Lucie every day.

"When I come home from work in the afternoon I lie her on my stomach and we watch the news. Babies are always on their back so it's good for them to have some time on their belly," he said.

"I'm also teaching her Dutch so hopefully she'll be bilingual."

Bastiaan said jobs around the house were shared and getting out of bed for Lucie during the night was taken in turns with his wife.

David Hughes, the North Coast Area Health Service clinical men's health nurse, said many issues associated with fathering were never discussed.

"There's a message in the community that it's not a man's job to bring up the kids," he said.

"If men spend more time alone with their baby it starts the process of engaging fathers into being parents.

"It's all about dads taking time out to be dads."

n See Part 3 of Secret Men's Business in Monday's Northern Star. President of the University of the Third Age Christopher Macartney-Filgate reveals how men deal with retirement.

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