Work and family roles have changed considerably in the past number of decades. Fathers are now expected to fulfil the role of ‘new father’ that involves actively caring and sharing in child rearing and, at the same time, maintain commitment to their occupational role. As a consequence, men are subject to the same pressure that women were when they initially entered the workplace decades ago and indeed still are today. This study aims to explore the meanings fathers attach to their life roles, how these meanings influence behaviour within these roles and how they negotiate the demands of these roles. In-depth interviews were carried out with 15 fathers, and the results were analysed adhering to the principles of grounded theory. The findings show the variability among fathers in both their commitment to fathering and the meanings they attach to that role. A significant tension between new fatherhood ideals and actual fathering practices is also apparent. These findings are discussed drawing upon traditional definitions of masculinity and wider occupational and cultural influences. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.