The Changing Face of Fatherhood

By Dr Balvinder Khaira

When I sat down to write this piece I realised just how broad this topic is. Fatherhood is such an individual experience. It is an experience and role that not only for men but anyone who identifies with the position. Given the breadth of the topic, I chose to write from my experience of fatherhood.

I grew up with the tradition of storytelling in my family. I never met my grandfather, but my father would tell me stories of him that would exemplify sacrifice and courage. I think those kinds of ideas encapsulate the traditional role of the father in my culture. It was a role defined by values such as providing, protecting and sacrifice. My father remembered his own father as a hero and model of fatherhood. However, the world changed quickly between my grandfather and father. My father lived during a paradigm shift from a traditional culture into modernity. He now had the choice to become more involved with child-rearing and my mother also was able to work and contribute financially. It is essential here to acknowledge that the efforts of women in liberating the role of motherhood had an equally strong effect on men’s traditional roles. Men were now also able to choose to step beyond the confinements of the traditional father and now had the privilege of choice to deepen their involvement with their family and children.

I read a study recently that was looking at brain imaging of new mothers and found their emotional centres grew after childbirth. Interestingly, gay men who identified as the primary carer for their child had almost identical changes as birthmothers. It shows that humans as such have enormous abilities and we grow and adapt according to our roles.

Some social commentators postulate that after modernity came postmodernity, a movement characterised by scepticism towards society’s grand narratives of gender, sexuality and fixed roles. The concept of the postmodern father is much more fluid, as postmodernity comes with the invitation to advocate for all permutations of the family unit.

When my son was born I had to contemplate what fatherhood meant to me. There wasn’t a fixed traditional role that I could reference. The postmodern identity of fatherhood is much less tangible. I realised that fatherhood is what I make of it. I could reference and integrate the traditional archetypal values of the father such as safety, protection, guidance and support. However, I was equally as free to incorporate many other qualities that I saw suitable. For example, I chose to work part-time until my son was three years old; this was the freedom that modern fatherhood offered me, the privilege to be intimately involved with my child’s formative years.

Some people say we are entering a cultural paradigm shift once again, this time from a postmodern into the post-postmodern. It seems a bit wordy. In my experience of this, it is one of integrating the previous and current permutations of the role – from the traditional to the modern era. It is to acknowledge the liberation that modernity provided to fatherhood, while simultaneously not denigrating the traditional role. Coming back to my grandfather, he seemed to have intuitively predated this movement: although he was traditional he still was a man of great pragmatism and what he did was motivated by kindness and love.

All these changes to our understanding of what fatherhood means can cause quite a bit of confusion to new dads. The current definition is wide open – if there even is one. And maybe that’s not a bad thing because it means it is what you make of it. If you are a new dad I’d encourage you to speak to someone, aim to build a strong support network and actively look for that support. Some of the links at the bottom of this article may be a good start.

Whatever the role looks like in your family is just one aspect for new fathers. Other factors will shape your role which you may not immediately associate with it. Things like sleep deprivation, changes in partner intimacy and shifting family dynamics, shifts in social circles and a host of other changes. Parenting is a personal experience and we live in a world where this role has much potential and freedom.

I think this is very exciting and such a privilege that we can decide for ourselves how we would like to contribute to shaping the next generation.

Further reading

Nominate Eleanor Clinic for the 2020 General Practice Award!

Veronica Ratu, RN, one of our terrific whirlwind practice nurses, alerted us to an award hosted by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

GP practices all over the country have done a tremendous job in pushing through the hardship unleashed by the Corona-pandemic. Staff have rallied together despite considerable risk to their own health. Practices everywhere have organised and staffed testing stations, building ‘vaccination centres’ from scratch in the wonderful outdoors so that there is minimal risk to anyone while continuing with the vital task of immunising our children. And through it all continuing to develop brand new clinic procedures that ensure patients get seen in a safe clinic environment – even in the middle of a world-wide disease outbreak that has put our old life on hold.

We know all this first hand because at Eleanor Clinic we decided from the first days that we would remain open for our patients throughout this challenge. Yes, there were weeks and weeks of what seemed like non-stop work to completely rethink how we provide health-care in a world that at times appears like it’s been turned upside down. We also had to find ways so that particularly our little patients weren’t scared of the masks and gowns we wear to keep them safe. It now seems that most children that come to us think what we’re doing to keep them safe is a big, very funny game. That’s alright with us. In fact, we take that as a big compliment!

What we’re trying to say is this: we are damn proud of what our staff has achieved despite all the uncertainty that even health professionals sometimes feel. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to do. Because we knew we needed ourselves and Eleanor Clinic to continue to provide the best health care for our community and then all the long hours to make it all happen just melted away. And we very much hope it makes a difference to your lives.

We’d be stoked if you would consider nominating our team – Eleanor Clinic – for the 2020 General Practice Award. Or, if you have a specific doctor in mind, then by all means nominate that doctor! Because more often than not it’s the little things in life that make all the difference – such as acknowledging someone’s work and care.

You’ll need a few minutes of spare time to fill in a nomination form. What better excuse than this to have a sit down with your favourite cup of hot beverage and clicking your way through the nomination form. Nominations close Friday, August 14th.

As Veronica put it: “Help me nominate our wonderful GPs and General Practice here at Eleanor Clinic. I work with this wonderful group of people everyday. I see them go above and beyond in their patient care, especially during this COVID crisis.” 

Thanks for that, Veronica – puts a smile on all our faces. 🙂

Nominate Eleanor Clinic

PrEP at Eleanor Clinic

PreP treatment or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to HIV is available from our doctors at Eleanor Clinic. The treatment is designed to prevent HIV infection for people at increased risk.

When taken daily, it is a highly effective way of preventing HIV. It’s available on PBS with a prescription.

Like all medications monitoring of potential side effects is important. In some people, PrEP can negatively impact kidney function or bone density. When we prescribe PrEP we regularly monitor for these side effects.

Quite a few people can experience headache and nausea after first starting PrEP. In our experience these usually fade away within two weeks.

Part of your consultation with us includes a full STD check on the same day. Melbourne Pathology is conveniently only a 2 min walk from us. You will receive your PrEP prescription and we’ll identify which pharmacy close to you always has PrEP available. Alternatively, any pharmacy can order it in for you.

Regular three monthly sexual health checks are part of being on PrEP. We usually get the results back in a few days. We encourage you to subscribe to our secure and free SMS notifications. This service is completely free for you to use – we’re happy to bear the costs. This system gives you significant freedom from having to actively chase your results yourself. We will send you a privacy conscious message that your results are normal. That’s it. No mention of which tests you had. Should you require treatment for an STD we won’t send you a message at all but rather give you a personal call. We are usually able to book you in for the same day and can then discuss and initiate the right treatment.

Our nurses are happy to check that all your vaccinations are up to date. Recommended vaccinations inlcude Hep A, Hep B, meningococcal and HPV vaccinations.

We’d encourage you to read more on relevant vaccinations.

More information on what PreP is about at

How to take PrEP and on demand dosing.

Difference Between Intermittent & Daily PrEP

COVID testing in the West

If you’re unwell or have mild symptoms such as a runny nose, cough or sore throat it’s important to make sure you don’t have COVID-19. We’ve updated our COVID-19 resource page with easy to access free COVID testing clinics in the West.

It may be worth printing off these addresses and sticking them on the fridge, in case you need them.

Here they are again:

COVID testing Clinics in the West

If you’re unwell with a fever or only milder symptoms like a runny nose, cough or sore throat you should not go to work and get yourself tested. Here’s where you can get tested in the West:

Altona North Respiratory Clinic (children and adults)


Phone: 9393 3900 or Book online

coHealth Footscray

78 Paisley St, Footscray

Monday-Friday, 9:30 am-12:30 pm and 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Phone: 9448 5502

Walk-ins welcome but prior appointment by phone call preferred.

Highpoint Shopping Centre

120-200 Rosamond Rd, Maribyrnong

Access: Turn onto Warrs Rd from Rosamond Rd, take 2nd entry on the right hand side

7 days 9 am-5 pm

Sunshine Hospital Respiratory Clinic

Walk-ins fine

Monday-Sunday 10 am-6 pm

Laverton Covid testing at coHealth

95-105 Railway Pde, Laverton

Call 9448 5534 or book online

Access: Entry to the clinic is via the rear of the building. Clients will be asked to park in the car park and remain in their car until approached by the triage nurse and directed into the clinic.

Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm