Incoming Speaker of the House Paul Ryan articulated several demands before he would accept the position. Among them was his insistence that his new duties do not interfere with his time for family. Here are my thoughts on this intriguing news.
- It is great news that Paul Ryan voiced his concerns that being promoted to Speaker of the House could represent a threat to his work life balance and his time with his family.
- It is great that Ryan asserted, “I cannot and will not give up my family time.” (In fact, the Washington Post thinks more working parents should say this, too)
- This is especially great because he is a dad and we need more because men speaking up about work family.
- Further, he’s a man in a prominent position in an industry that is notorious for being unsupportive of work-family balance.
- Even further, Ryan speaks as a leader of one of our two major political parties,
and particularly the political party that has been less friendly to work-family concerns.
- I don’t believe that dads of prior generations did not care about work-family balance. However, I think Ryan’s demands show a generational shift both in priorities and in asserting these priorities. This is a very welcome development!
- In my book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide (now also available as an audio book), I spend 3 chapters on how dads can better navigate their workplaces and advocate for their family needs. I suggest that, when one has leverage and credibility, they should use it to create space for a full family life. This can and has been successfully done, even in demanding workplaces. Maybe Ryan read my book!?
- So, in this way, Paul Ryan is just a very visible high-level example of what all men who have leverage in negotiating with their employers should be doing (see also the story of these men).
- All this being said, the case of Paul Ryan and family illustrates the divide between the haves and the have nots. Working dads in many lucrative industries like tech and finance are provided with generous parental leave policies and flexible work arrangements- these dads may have the leverage and financial security to use them. In contrast, hourly and working-class working dads do not have such policies offered to them, are generally not in a position to advocate for themselves, and, in effect, are unable to accommodate their work demands around their family needs.
- This is where Ryan’s personal example comes into conflict with his political stances, which would not be considered supportive of helping working families find ways to stay gainfully employed and spend quality time with their families. Not to get too political, but the GOP has been lockstep against such policies as pay parental leave, increased access to childcare and even paid sick days.
- I wish that prominent working dads would go beyond just and advocating for themselves or even setting a visible example. I feel that those of us with means and influence, to make things better for other work and dads and other working families, have the responsibility to do so. What’s good for Paul Ryan and family should be good for others, too.
- Relatedly, I wish that Paul Ryan and other political figures who both care about their careers as being present involve fathers, would stand up for their fellow dads. After all, if we don’t, it won’t get better for the rest of us.
I’ve long believed that when those in business and government who have had to grapple with work and family in their own lives move to positions of leadership, we will finally see rapid progress. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Paul Ryan used his new position to help advance a family-supportive agenda!
What do you think about Paul Ryan’s statement? Let’s discuss in the comments.
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