Senator Richard Di Natale, the leader of the Greens, announced his decision to quit politics on Monday morning.
He explained he had used the summer holiday to reflect on what he wanted and had decided he wanted to spend more time with his children and be better able to support his wife.
“I’ve got to the point in my life where I’ve got two young boys [and] I want to be there for them,” he said. “Being away for half the year from a young family has just become, for me, too difficult.”
This morning I took the incredibly difficult decision to step down as Parliamentary Leader of the @Greens. It’s not something easily put into words because representing this incredible movement has been one of the biggest honours of my life. Farewell and thank you for everything. pic.twitter.com/WAOHl7neW0
— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) February 3, 2020
It wasn’t that long ago that a man citing a desire to ‘spend more time with his family’, upon resigning from a big job, was almost always a euphemism. Occasionally it was even a smokescreen for decidedly un-family-friendly conduct.
Fortunately, these days that’s not always the case. There are more men who are choosing to leave big jobs because of a genuine desire to be engaged fathers and partners and frankly it’s a positive development.
Even if it means losing skilled and talented individuals from various realms, it’s positive because it places the spotlight firmly on what is becoming an increasingly untenable bind between family responsibilities and work obligations, reinforces the fact that breadwinning does not encapsulate the entirety of fatherhood and challenges the stubbornly entrenched understanding that the role of dads in the home is somewhat superfluous.
And that’s before you even consider the impact on the biggest stakeholders: the members of the household directly impacted.
“When I’ve got my youngest boy saying, ‘I wish you weren’t a politician, Dad, because we don’t see you,’ it’s telling you something,” Di Natale said of his nine-year-old son.
Federal politics is peculiarly demanding, with the travel to and from Canberra making it particularly difficult to reconcile with family presence.
Kate Ellis, Kelly O’Dwyer and Tim Hammond are a few MPs who have left Federal politics in recent years because of being unable to combine their work in Canberra with the manner in which they wanted to be available to their families.
But federal politicians are far from alone in struggling to strike the right balance with their responsibilities in and out of the home.
The challenge of ‘having it all‘ has long been discussed as it pertains to women but has historically been overlooked as it relates to men. The reason for this is simply that until recently, work outside the home has been considered the full scope of any father’s remit. The beginning, end and middle of it.
More and more fathers aren’t satisfied that’s enough so when they come face-on with the dilemma of not feeling able to be the parent or partner they want to be, they are looking around for alternatives.
The same alternatives many women have been seeking out for years: opportunities to work in a way that is meaningful but flexible. Work that is important but not 24/7.
Di Natale’s resignation from politics is not just another reminder that if we want our elected representatives to reflect the communities they serve, we need to consider the reality of roles in politics and how they can be re-designed and re-imagined.
It’s a reminder that we need to be innovative and open-minded about the way all jobs are designed and fulfilled.