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Father knows best as single dads tackle the other glass ceiling

Father knows best as single dads tackle the other glass ceiling

Wed December 26, 2012 1:01pm

CHARLES Areni was shopping alone in a city department store between Monday meetings when he realised he was being watched.

His three-year-old daughter Jacqueline was running low on underwear and he had stopped in to buy her a few more pairs.

Areni, a single father, looked over his shoulder as the security guard approached to ask what he was doing in the children's section.

''He asked me, 'Don't you have a job?', and I said, 'Yes I do! Is there a problem?' somewhat angrily as I became aware what was happening.''

Professor Areni says the security guard could not imagine a father would shop for his child's clothes; instead, he saw a pervert.

''Men in general are assumed to be depraved or likely to be foul in some way,'' the University of Sydney academic said. ''Being a good father, demonstrating the ability to love and nurture children, doesn't allow an escape from this sinister suspicion.''

Professor Areni and fellow scholar in behavioural sciences Stephen Holden are single fathers writing a book about their experiences.

The Other Glass Ceiling explores gender inequalities within families, arguing that it is not only women who face discrimination.

Fathers who want to be involved in child rearing are often relegated to the status of secondary parent by dominant mothers who want to make all the decisions.

Societal stereotypes assume men are likely to be incompetent parents at best and potentially dangerous at worst, the book argues.

It advocates for fathers to step up and take on more of the domestic workload, and for mothers to let go of their need to be in charge at home.

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