Real Men Take Paternity Leave

Being there for the first several weeks was so important for my family
My being there for the first several weeks was so important for my family

When I am interviewed about paternity leave, my book, and other “working dad” issues, I always get the question about why, even in companies that provide paid paternity leave, many dads don’t feel they can actually take an extended leave without significant career consequences. My typical answer goes something like this:

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The Key to Work-Life Success: Intentional Choices

“When we consciously think about our actions and how we spend our time, we tend to be more consistent with our priorities. When we are on auto-pilot, we drift from our priorities and towards whatever happens to be most urgent at the moment “

Sometimes I allow 24/7 connectivity to work get in the way of family time
Sometimes I allow 24/7 connectivity to work get in the way of family time

A few months ago, a financial planner gave a guest lecture to students at my university about the importance of smart financial management right out of college. He talked about his own spending habits when he got his first job. As he drove to work for his first day, he stopped along the way for a Starbucks – after all, he had money now, and he deserved a treat. Later that day, his new colleagues took him out to lunch at a local café. What started as one-off decisions quickly became habits.

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Hey Dads: Year-Long Presence Is the Best Christmas Present

Our kids may want things, but they NEED time with their fathers. This Christmas, instead of stuff, we should give our kids the opportunities to do more fun things with us. Here are a few ideas.

Regardless of what you and your kids like to do, why not have Santa give you more opportunities to do them together

The best gift you can give your kids is your consistent presence. Happily, instead of buying your kids the latest junky plastic thingamabob they have their eye on, we can use Christmas (or Hanukkah) gifts as a as an excuse to purchase things that create opportunities for time together. Here are a few suggestions:

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Why Don’t More Men Walk The Talk on Work-Family?

When surveyed, dads overwhelmingly say that they would prefer to share childcare and housework relatively equally with their spouses, and would prefer to use flexibility and parental leave to better balance work and family. However, the data show that while men have made significant progress on both fronts, our actions do not match our intentions–leaving us more “locked into” work and less involved at home than we’d like.

I was lucky that my  career, "paternity leave" experience and family dynamics were conducive to my being a very involved dad.
I was lucky that my career, employer flexibility and family dynamics were conducive to my being a very involved dad.

There are a few reasons for this mismatch. While corporate cultures and lack of societal support are major problems, it is also true that we sometimes get in our own way. Here’s a quick rundown of the barriers today’s dads face, including some advice on how we may be able to change our situations (future posts will dive more deeply into each topic).

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Fathers, Work and No Family: What I Learned From My Week Alone

Amy and Nick are spending the week out in California, visiting her brother and his family. Because my semester starts next week, I had to stay home to ramp up my class preparation and attend too many meetings.

Home alone...
Home alone…

This means I am in the middle of a week with pretty much no family responsibilities or time constraints. As I most often write about balancing fatherhood with work and other life roles, I am finding this family-free time to be an interesting experiment.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far from this experience.

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How Paternity Leave Shaped Me As a Father and Strengthened My Family

I was fortunate to have been able to spend the first few months of my son’s life at home with him and my wife. How this experience shaped me as a father and husband.

 My paternity leave fundamentally shaped me as a person, parent and spouse, and I believe it contributed to the strength and resiliency of my family. I wish all fathers and families had the same opportunity
My paternity leave fundamentally shaped me as a person, parent and spouse, and I believe it contributed to the strength and resiliency of my family. I wish all fathers and families had the same opportunity

I didn’t exactly take a paternity leave. I’m a college professor and my son, Nick, was born three days after my last final exam of the Spring semester. Perfect timing (although we didn’t actually plan it that way). I was able to spend the summer on a “de-facto paternity leave” with my wife, Amy, and Nick as we all got to learn how this whole “baby makes three” thing would shake out.

Here are four ways I benefitted from the opportunity to be present during the first few months of Nick’s life:

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Building Father-Child Memories That Last

If we want to be remembered as good dads, we have to both put in the hard work of being a good father and also carve out time for fun, memorable shared experiences with our kids. Here are some ideas on how to maximize the latter.

Star Wars is one of our family traditions
Star Wars is one of our family traditions

Flying in an airplane is much safer than covering the same distance riding in a car. Yet, most people are more afraid of flying than driving. One of the main reasons why is “Availability Bias,” in which things that are easier to call to mind (like the rare plane crash that is all over the news) are given greater weight than things that are less memorable (like the thousands of car crashes a day).

Most of the time, the availability bias is a problem that leads us to make faulty decisions regarding risk (at the beach, we may be more concerned with shark attacks than skin cancer; after watching Law & Order SVU, we vastly overestimate the incidence of child abduction, etc.). But we can also use this quirk of human memory to our advantage.

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The Best Way to Think About Work-Family Balance (Balanced Diet, Not a See-Saw)

The Benefits of Thinking About “Work-Family Balance” as a “Balanced Diet” instead of a “Balance Beam.”

Balance, as in a balanced diet... (photo: flickr, labeled for noncommercial reuse)
Balance, as in a balanced diet… (all photos: flickr, labeled for noncommercial reuse)

A balanced diet means that we eat enough of different types of food without eating too much of certain categories. Similarly, a full life means that we must tend to various parts of our lives (family, work, health, relationships, friends, hobbies, exercise, etc.), all of which are important parts of a whole.

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Idiots Mike Francesa, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton Are So Very Very Wrong About MLB Paternity Leave

Idiots Mike Francesa, Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason said awful things in reaction to the Mets’ Daniel Murphy’s recent paternity leave. Their ugly, ignorant remarks are a disgrace and need to be repudiated in the strongest possible terms.

Boomer and Carton are idiots
Boomer and Carton are idiots

The wife of NY Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy went into labor just before opening day. He missed their first game of the season, and may miss one or two more. As I have reported here at FWF multiple times, MLB is the first major league sport to provide players with up to 72 hours of paternity leave. I am on record that this policy sends an important public signal about the importance of fatherhood.

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The Time is Right For the FAMILY Act- Paid Parental Leave

The FAMILY act would create a national policy of paid parental leave. Why I think this is a great idea.

I was extremely fortunate to spend the first few months of Nick's life at home. I hope that more dads become able to take paternity leave to have similar experiences
I was extremely fortunate to spend the first few months of Nick’s life at home. I hope that more dads become able to take paternity leave to have similar experiences

When I was on NPR last week (you can listen here) to discuss paternity leave, we took lots of great phone calls from listeners. Most callers lamented their lack of available paternity leave.

One caller, however, had lived in Montreal, where new dads are entitled to up to 5 weeks of paid leave, with wage replacement up to 70% of one’s earnings. It is no wonder that more than 80 percent of new dads in Quebec take paternity leave. (for more on the benefits of paternity leave, see here)

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Old Dads, New Dads and Super Dads: Which Are You?

Sociologist Gayle Kaufman recently wrote a great book examining the lives of men balancing work and family, and describes three general categories of dads- Old Dads, New Dads and Super Dads. Here’s a discussion of each. Which are you?

"Superdads" by Gayle Kaufman
“Superdads” by Gayle Kaufman

Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century,” by Gayle Kaufman, is an excellent sociological study of the changing nature of fatherhood. The book is based on extensive interviews with a wide range of fathers–about their lives, relationships, parenting styles and work-family concerns. Kaufman finds that today’s generation of dads is more involved and more conscious of work-family demands and tradeoffs. In her analysis, Kaufman sees today’s dad as falling into one of three broad categories:

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A Dad’s Dilemma: Prioritizing Time Versus Money

While it is important to provide for our families, be careful not to trade off too much time for money. Our kids may want things, but they NEED time with their fathers more. As part of National Work and Family Month, here’s a post for my fellow fathers who feel torn between spending time at work and spending time with our families.

Sure, kids like money. But they NEED you. (photo credit: Good N Crazy, creative commons license)

On October 3rd, my first article at the Huffington Post was published. I was invited to participate in National Work Family Month and contribute content to their month-long effort to raising awareness and support for work-family balance. Here’s the beginning of the piece, plus a link to the full article over at HuffPo.

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