Men are being urged to learn more about the risks of older fatherhood.

Have children replaced the wife as the perceived ball and chain of the modern man? Photo: Louise Kennerley

You have to wonder if the ''bloody kids'' have replaced ''the missus'' as the perceived ball and chain around the modern man's neck.

Both are topics of conversation I find older guys will use to establish a rapport with a stranger - particularly in client meetings, at conferences and work functions.

Sport might also get a mention and, perhaps, commentary on the attractiveness of whatever woman is nearby but once these subjects are exhausted it's fascinating how often men will riff on the onerous nature of parenthood, and ''how you've lost the next 20 years of your life''.

''The eye-rolling and pity I get when I tell people I have three kids under five is mind-blowing,'' says a chief executive friend of mine who hears the ''bloody kids'' conversation-starter rolled out at least three times a week.

''I find it odd that in a new social situation - say small talk before a business meeting - a man would essentially admit he is spineless. Because that's what he's telling you: 'It's all too much.'''

By contrast, I find it comforting to hear my mate talk this way because he's certainly stretched - with a hugely demanding job and those three kids under five - yet about the only complaint I'll hear from him regarding his children is not seeing enough of them.

Being in a situation where my daughter doesn't live with me, I can empathise with his desire to spend more time with his sprogs, something I try to communicate to men when I get the ''bloody kids'' conversation.

''Mate, I'd give my left testicle to be able to get bored of my daughter,'' I say to them, to which they usually reply, ''Then come around my place on the weekend and absorb the full horror.''

No doubt many guys who say this are half-joking but I have to wonder how much of this bravado and self-absorption their children pick up on, and what effect it has on them.

We hear constantly about mothers' guilt (working or stay-at-home) as to whether they're spending enough time with their children, yet it's not an anxiety I hear articulated by too many blokes.

The concept of a day out to spend time with their mates, also known as the ''leave pass'', with its allusion to prison life, is so ingrained in the minds of Aussie men, I doubt many pause to consider that if children and your partner are viewed as something you need to escape, you might be doing something wrong. I know when you measure the time you spend with your child in hours - as I do - and not days, each one becomes a prize more precious than just about anything else in your life.

Again, I understand many full-time parents think they ''never get a second to themselves'' but it always surprises me the number of mothers and fathers I see at cafes, faces buried in newspapers, as their children vie for their attention. These are interactions they will never get to have again.

A dad was telling me recently about putting his two-year-old into day care so his wife could earn a little extra money - ''but it hardly counts after we've paid all the fees'', he said.

Sure, this is a decision forced on many parents but for plenty, it's still a lifestyle decision, so let's not moan too much about the cost, which belies the value of the job being done.

You are paying someone else to bring up your child - to spend time with the most cherished person in your life - and that's just about priceless. Take it from me.