Fathers’ Work-Family Issues Hit The Mainstream Media

Over the past few weeks, articles have appeared in major mainstream media outlets reporting and commenting on work-family issues for dads. For someone who has been a fathers, work and family advocate for a long time, I couldn’t be happier. Here’s a sampling of recent articles, and my commentary on this trend.

Dad's Work-Family Issues made the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek this week!!!!!
Dads’ Work-Family Issues made the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek!!!!!

While there is a danger that men, work and family will be reported on only as a short-term novelty, I am highly encouraged by all this media attention. I have always maintained that when more attention is paid to men’s work-family issues:

  • Men who struggle with these issues may realize they are not alone
  • Supervisors and business leaders may realize this is a serious business issue that requires some thought and attention
  • These issues become more normal and acceptable to talk about at home and in society- and most importantly- in workplaces across the country
  • The business case for considering men in work-family conversations and solutions becomes more evident

Here are links to some recent articles:

  • The Cover Story!!!! of Bloomberg BusinessWeek “Alpha Dads: Men Get Serious About Work-Life Balance” by Sheelah Kolhatkar. A good broad intro to the topic, with an effective look at the subtle sanctions men face if they discuss or prioritize family at work, and what a few smart companies (and brave men) are doing about it.
  • Richard Dorment’s “Why Men Still Can’t Have It All” in Esquire magazine. A good piece, but too combative for my tastes- Dorment rips into Anne-Marie Slaughter and lots of women who, in IMO, have made good arguments about women’s struggles. He sets up the debate too much along the lines of men’s versus women’s issues, when IMO, we are really fighting on the same side (even if not everyone yet realizes it). I humbly recommend my article on this topic at Good Men Project instead.
  • Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch discusses “Why Dads Pass on Paid Paternity Leave“, stating that 88% of new dads fail to take advantage of available programs (written by Jen Wieczner). This is an important issue that illustrates how far we still have to go to change US business culture.
  • Over at Harvard Business Review’s blog, Joan Williams explores “Why Men Work So Many Hours” and concludes that society pushes college-educated men, many of whom are fathers, into “all-in” and “always-on” approaches to their work- to the detriment of themselves, their spouses, their kids, and society (also check out Monique Valcour’s consistently awesome work at HBR).

To be fully honest, there is a small, jealous part of me that feels like I should have been quoted and referenced in these articles (or, even better, paid to write them). But, aside from ego, I think the increased attention to work-family issues for fathers is an unalloyed good thing. I’m happy to be part of this conversation, and to be having this conversation with you.

What do you think about the recent media attention to work-family issues for dads? Have any stories to share about your own workplaces? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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17 thoughts on “Fathers’ Work-Family Issues Hit The Mainstream Media

  1. If you’re gone, it’s you’re “never there for family.” If you’re home, it’s, “shouldn’t you be working?” The balance should include as much time with family that the conscience will allow!

    • You summed up the conundrum and unrealistic expectations that men face very well. Men, families, and companies all need to change their thinking. This current public conversation can help get us there.

  2. While some may find it idealistic, I feel the most important “job” a man will ever have is raising his children. Providing for them is one thing, being present and raising them is another (and in many cases IMO takes a higher priority). Too many men use the “I’m trying to provide the best for my family” as a catchall excuse for their own ambition. My motto? They’ll print more money, but they’re not printing more time with my daughter. Someone else can have the nicer car, I’ll take the camping trip with her. Balance your work/home life and you’ll find more satisfaction in your older years. Not to be dramatic, but when you’re on your deathbed, you won’t be wishing you’d had more time to earn more money.

  3. Thanks for the links to these stories — it is great that the issue is receiving so much attention in the media. In addition to our culture reinforcing expectations of how men should act in the workplace, I think it’s also important to recognize that some men are very driven to succeed and may not view family time as a priority. Certainly, many highly successful men have this perspective and, in truth, maybe this kind of narrow focus is necessary to achieve greatness (Steve Jobs’s intense focus on Apple, for example).

  4. Obviously it’s beneficial for mainstream media to be covering the issue, but sadly I don’t think it’s enough to change the mindset of men who don’t see parenting as (at least as) important as what they do to earn a living. So much is dependent on how their fathers parented and modeled being a ‘man’. It could be another generation before we see fathers tackling the work-family issue (there’s never true ‘balance’) en masse. I admire dads who embrace their role as full-time parents because they are heroes to their wives (or partners or ex-wives or ex-partners, etc.) and to their children. It always touches my heart.

    • Hi Linda-
      Thanks for reading, and for your really excellent comment.
      I agree that the biggest change will come when the generation of young men and women who experienced dual-career parenting when they were kids start working their way up the ranks of organizations.
      In the meantime, culture only changes very slowly, as a result of thousands of smaller changes, conversations and signals. The media attention, in a small accumulative way, contributes to this culture change.

  5. Thanks so much for this great round-up of recent articles on this topic and for your perspective — I’m so happy to have discovered this blog and to get the male point of view on these issues. We all need more men speaking up about work-life. I’m working on a new website all about the need for change in the workplace that you might be interested in (http://www.StartAskingQuestions.com) and I will be checking back here often — looking forward to reading more!

    • Thank you for reading and writing. It is nice to report good news on this issue every so often.

      Let’s be sure to check out each other’s work. We have a lot in common and many places where we could collaborate.