Can working fathers have it all?

Working FathersA new generation of fathers with corporate jobs is joining the debate about balancing work and family, a conversation long driven by working women. As the number of dual-earner couples grows and more men make sacrifices to support their wives’ careers, some fathers are asking employers for guidance and action or tapping flexible-workplace policies originally designed for working mothers. Others are curbing their career goals to spend more time at home, according to the WSJ. A new generation of fathers with corporate jobs is joining the debate about balancing work and family, a conversation long driven by working women.

Fathers are more likely than mothers to log long hours at the office, and they report feeling even higher levels of work-life conflict than mothers do. In addition, fathers who give higher-than-average levels of childcare, ask for paternity leave, or interrupt their careers for family reasons are harassed more at work, receive worse performance evaluations, and get paid less than men who either don’t have kids, or who don’t spend much time with them. And when fathers ask for flex-time, they’re often even more penalized than mothers are for making the same request.

We need to recognize that working fathers, like working mothers, are susceptible to the “putting everyone else first” challenge of modern working-parenthood. We’re already seeing this starting to happen. For instance, this year, for the first time, the White House convened sessions on working dads as part of their Summit on Working Families, TODAY released the findings from their Modern Dad survey about the changing roles of fathers in our society, and Scientific American just published the book Do Fathers Matter?: What the Science is Telling us about the Parent we’ve Overlooked.

This is good news for those of us who think men should be encouraged to take on their share of parenting and other household responsibilities, rather than told we may as well not try since we lack the natural aptitude. Morning shows, too, seem to be banking on the notion that viewers are interested in more complex discussions about fatherhood, as evidenced by both Good Morning America and Today featuring a week of segments about dads for Father’s Day, rather than the usual grills-and-gadgets gift guide.

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