My wife and I both work, but since she is a musical theater actress, sometimes she has to work late, really late. On those days, we get my son up, fed, dressed and ready for school before we go to work. At my job, I put in a full morning, work through lunch at my desk, leave a few hours early while taking work home—all so I can get back in time for the afternoon bus. At home, I help with homework, cook dinner, play light-sabers and Legos, supervise bathtime, cuddle my son and tuck him in. My wife comes home just in time for a good-night kiss. I spend an hour or two working on my laptop and my wife chills out with Downton Abbey before we go to bed. Some days, she’s home earlier; on others, we’re all home for family game night. Each day is a little different.
I’m no hero, no “superdad.” I’m just one of the millions of dads who are putting in the work to provide for their families, to balance their careers with their spouses’ and, most importantly, to be a loving, involved father. My work-family juggle is typical, but as a society, we don’t think much about the challenges faced by working fathers.
When the media does pay attention to fathers, it tends to focus on the stay-at-home variety. This makes sense, as SAHDs are breaking down barriers as to what society considers a “real man” and are demonstrating that men and women can succeed outside of traditional gender roles—all to the benefit of their families, children and our society. Go SAHDs!
(MORE: 5 Myths About Stay-At-Home Dads)
But the fact is that most fathers work outside the home. And their main concern—balancing a successful career with the time and energy needed to be a loving, involved father—has received comparatively scant attention. To fill the void, here are five things we should all know about today’s working dad:
- This generation of fathers works as hard and for as many hours as prior generations. They face at least as many financial pressures and a world with less job and financial security than dads who have come before. Even with the rise of breadwinner moms and dual-income couples, fathers are the sole or primary providers for 85% of dual-parent households.
- Fathers today aspire to career success. 76% of those surveyed in Boston College’s New Dad studies wish to be promoted to positions of greater responsibility and 58% express a strong desire to move into senior management.
- Today’s dad has tripled the time he spends caring for his children and does twice the housework, compared to fathers of a generation ago. 65% of dads see their role as both provider and caretaker, and 85% aspire to fully sharing parenting with their spouses (however, only about 30% report that they do so).
- Workplaces and corporate cultures have not kept up with these changes. Research shows that men who adjust their work for family are often seen as insufficiently committed to their work and “unmanly,” facing stigma and career consequences. Employers still expect men to be “all in” for work even when they are sharing care at home.
- 50% of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family responsibilities. In fact, more fathers today (about two-thirds) report work-family conflict and stress than working moms.
Needless to say, this is quite a set of challenges, and they deserve attention. I believe that when more attention is paid to men's work-family issues:
- These issues become more normal and acceptable to talk about in homes and workplaces across the country
- Fathers who struggle with work-family balance will realize they are not alone, and will be more willing to reach out for help and to connect with fellow dads
- Supervisors and business leaders will realize this is a serious business issue that requires thought and attention
- Fathers, mothers, kids, families, society and even employers will benefit
We still have a long way to go, but, for the first time, the tide is beginning to turn and dads’ work-family issues are starting to be discussed. As a dad and a fatherhood advocate, I couldn't be happier. When working dads are supported, families are stronger.
Work-family balance is not a woman’s issue. And it’s not a man’s issue. It’s a family issue that affects us all. It’s time we started talking more about it.
Scott Behson, PhD, is a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a busy involved dad, and an overall grateful guy. He runs Fathers, Work, and Family, a blog dedicated to helping fathers better balance work and family, and encouraging more supportive workplaces. He also writes on work and family issues for Harvard Business Review (HBR) Blogs, Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. He lives in Nyack, NY with his wife, Amy, and son, Nick. Contact him on Twitter (@ScottBehson), Facebook, LinkedIn or email.