June 22, 2010
The rise of the working dad
This month's crop of Father's Day articles on the web struck a similar theme: from more dads seeking flexible work schedules to more men feeling incredibly stressed by the work-family juggle, parenting has truly become an equal opportunity endeavor.
"[M]ore dads are starting to stand up and ask for more flexible work arrangements -- from time off after a baby is born to reduced hours and days. Such options were once thought to be a mother's domain, but now an increasing number of dads want to be more hands-on in raising their kids. Others are driven by economics: a wife might earn more money or not have flexibility at work."
According to "The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood Within a Career Context," a new study by the Center for Work & Family, "today's new dads do not equate being a good father with the role of 'breadwinner,' but with 'being there, being present, spending time, and being accessible.'"
Of course, no advancement in gender roles would be complete without some setbacks. As Tara Parker-Pope wrote in last week's New York Times, "[S]everal studies show that fathers are now struggling just as much -- and sometimes even more -- than mothers in trying to fulfill their responsibilities at home and in the office." (Here, she also cites the Center for Work & Family study.)
In addition, Parker-Pope continued, "Fathers also seem more unhappy than mothers with the juggling act: In dual-earner couples, 59 percent of fathers report some level of 'work-life conflict,' compared with about 45 percent of women, according to a 2008 report from the Families and Work Institute in New York."
Then there's the troubling matter of some men being regarded as less than committed to their job when they request more flexibility at work or time off to care for a new addition to their family.
But why dwell on the negatives when there's so much heartening news on the fatherhood front? Twenty-five years ago most dads wouldn't have dreamed of staying home with the kids. Now you can't go a couple days without running into a dad who revels in his at-home status.
Case in point: While at a journalism conference last week, I had dinner with four other writers, three of them stay-at-home dads who had adjusted their work schedules so they could spend more time at home raising their kids. Each of these guys described himself as a "working dad."
My fourth dinner companion, Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success, astutely pointed out that it's not often you hear a man who's tweaked his work hours so he has more time to parent refer to himself as a working dad.
Sure, women have owned the term "working mom" for eons, Alboher said, but it's usually ascribed to "any mom who also works," regardless of whether she works full-time, part-time, or flextime. But for our male dinner companions, all of them in their thirties or forties, being a self-described working parent meant scaling back on their career somewhat so they could tend to junior during the day.
Not surprisingly, each of these three men had his own way of blending stay-at-home parenthood with the rigors of self-employment. Two worked part-time from home, devoting just 20 to 30 hours a week to their freelance writing career. The two with infants and toddler-age kids did most of their writing in the wee morning or late evening hours, when the kids were asleep and their partner was home from work. Only one dad of the bunch worked a full-time schedule, and he had to hire a babysitter one afternoon a week in order to do it, lest his weekly meetings with a high-profile client get interrupted by his baby crying.
How about you? If you're raising kids with a dad in the equation, how are you and your partner divvying up the parenting and breadwinning duties? What's working and what isn't? Do tell.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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