Men At Work
A lot of ink has been devoted to the work/life balance for moms, but are dads feeling the crunch too?
I think they might be. While programs such as paternity leave have expanded, there don’t seem to be a lot of dads asking for flex hours and shortened work weeks. With the baby boomers passing through the stage of having kids at home, a new generation of employees is filling their place. And these new dads don’t have the same tacit agreement with their wives that their place is at work and their wives’ place is at home — the expectation is that dads step up and play an active role in their kids’ lives, too.
And most dads that I’ve talked to want that. They want to attend soccer games and school plays and recitals, and know how to soothe a crying infant, and be able to understand a two-year-old’s baby talk without an interpreter. And yet, in the workplace, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for that desire.
The problem is that the workplace culture hasn’t seemed to have caught up to the cultural shift of involved and active dads. There’s still a very strong pressure — both subtle and not so subtle — to make work a man’s first priority. And even though colleagues may secretly admire or even be jealous of a man for taking a paternity leave or leaving work early to take a little one to piano lessons, the clear message that is sent is that this person is not fulfilling his occupational duties.
The question is, is it possible to do both?
Well, that’s the question working moms have been grappling with for a number of decades. And while there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer, hopefully the sands are shifting. As the old guard gradually retire and turn the reins over to a new generation of employees, and as we as a society come to a greater acceptance of the role of not only dads, but active, engaged parents in general to the health and well-being of kids, perhaps our goals will shift from increased productivity and the acquisition of stuff to quality time and investing in our kids. And it’s those of us working right now, poised to step into even greater leadership roles over the next few years, that will have the power to make that happen.