Here’s a helpful tool that can help us discuss our work and family priorities and develop strategies to reach our goals.
A while ago, I gave a presentation at the Academy of Management conference as part of a panel symposium on new areas of work-family research and practice. One of my co-presenters was Trisha Harp, who skyped into the symposium as it took place just a few days before the due date of her baby (Baby has arrived, and mom, baby and family are all doing fine!).
Many corporate cultures make it hard for dads to balance work and family. Let’s not compound the problem by also trapping ourselves. Here are 4 ways to avoid exacerbating our work-family struggles.
A Harvard Debate
I recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network*. In it, I discuss men’s flexibility stigma– that is, men who make use of workplace flexibility for family reasons often face negative perceptions and tangible repercussions, even moreso than women.
I then call for working dads who have job security and credibility to start to chip away at rigid company cultures so that it becomes more normal to talk about fathers’ work-family issues. This is a first step, I believe, in a long-term process of making more employers more amenable to work-family concerns.
Overall, the article was very well-received- tons of shares, tweets and comments, almost all of which were complimentary. Many said the piece resonated with them and thanked me for raising this important but under-publicized issue. But there was some debate as well. One commenter:
Welcome HBR Readers! Please take a look around (see the “best of” category link on the right-hand side of the page) and feel free to like/follow the blog and spread the word.
Most of us don’t want to opt-out of a rewarding, successful career. Most of us don’t want to opt-out of being a present, involved parent. Hopefully our generation can find a more balanced, integrated path.
The NYTimes Sunday Magazine’s fascinating cover story, “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In” by Judith Warner, paints a complex picture of the dynamics of work and family. While it focuses on high-earning women who gave up their careers to be stay-at-home moms, it has very interesting things to say about how men’s and women’s progress towards work-family balance are inextricably tied.
“When your kids become adults, how do you want them to remember their childhoods with you?” Almost all fathers want to be remembered as being a consistent positive presence in their children’s lives. Making this happen requires aligning our actions with our priorities.
In its June 4th “Room For Debate“, the New York Times insulted fathers by questioning their purpose, role and potential contribution to families. My rebuttal to the very question, and my commentary on the contributors’ writings.
The recent Pew Research Report focuses on “The Rise of Breadwinner Moms“. However, if you look beyond the headline into the data, the real take-away should be that the clear majority of households are “dual-earner/shared-care”– why don’t employers and our society realize this and start adapting for long-term success?
Like most headlines, this is somewhat misleading. They only get to the 40% number by cobbling together the 11% never-married single mother households, the 14% single-mother-divorced households and the 15% of dual-parent households with female breadwinners. These are kinda three separate groups, no?
If you really dive into the data, what you find is that only 15% of two-parent families and 22.5% of dual-income families have the wife as the primary earner. While this is notable, and represents larger percentages than in the past, the fact is the vast, vast majority of families and dual-income families rely on the husbands for the larger share of the income.
Marissa Mayer announced a progressive paternity leave policy at Yahoo! Especially considering recent Yahoo! decisions, these policies represent an important step forward for working dads everywhere.
Fair or not, when Yahoo! hired Marissa Mayer as their CEO, Mayer had to know that her status as a thirty-something first-of-her-generation new mother female CEO would attract a lot of attention, and that many would look past her impressive qualifications (degrees from Stanford, a staggeringly productive career and rise up the ranks at Google), and focus instead on the symbolic nature of her position- especially when it came to work and family considerations.
The early returns on that front, well let’s just say, were not so good.
Our job as fathers is to equip our children to have productive, happy and meaningful lives. In my opinion, the best way to do so is by role-modeling the values, priorities and actions to which we hope they will aspire.
One day, I hope Nick will get married, and I want him to value not just his own career, but also the career of his life partner. This is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how supportive I am of my wife Amy (and she is of me), he will seek out a supportive spouse and that he will value his spouse’s career as much as his own.
First off, if you haven’t already, please read Part 1, which I posted on Monday. This article picks up where that one left off.
Amy is a musical theater actress, and her work schedule is demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible (but, even in her brutally competitive field, she is talented enough to be working all the time!). If she’s called for an audition, it is often scheduled for tomorrow! and it cannot be rescheduled to fit her preferences.
I’ve long believed that businesses would become much more flexible and progressive when it comes to work-family issues when those of my generation rose to positions of leadership.
Current 40-somethings are the first to grow up with dual-career couples for parents, while mostly being in dual-career marriages in their own lives. This generation of leaders is also more diverse and gender-equal than any that came before. This perspective, I’ve always thought, would finally lead to widespread understanding that workplace flexibility is not just a nice thing to do, but is good business- keeping step with our changing world improves a company’s ability to better attract and retain top talent.
* as long as the kids get the time and attention they need.
Two-income families get divorced WAY LESS than single-earner households. Here’s why two incomes can lead to more fulfillment and lower stress.
(disclaimer- my philosophy on marriages/families is that couples need to discuss and choose an arrangement that works best for the family. There are many different ways to be successful, and it is not my intent to criticize or denigrate anyone’s choice or the way they structure their work in and out of the home. Your mileage may vary. Please keep this in mind as you read)
You have a job you don’t like, a boss who’s a jerk, few advancement opportunities on the horizon, and it’s a tough economy to find a comparable job somewhere else.
You have a great idea for a new business. You’d be great at it, and you’d feel so much better about yourself. You’d love to escape the hamster-wheel you are on and pursue your professional goals…
But, you have a wife and two kids. They rely 100% on your income, and on your employer’s health insurance plan. You have a mortgage, car payments, and you are desperately trying to put aside some money for college and retirement.
So, what do you do?
Well, you probably suck it up, and do what you have to for your family- after all, their needs come first.
But this comes at a cost. You are a more stressed, less happy person. You have all the pressure to provide for your family on your shoulders- and of course, even this job you don’t like doesn’t come with guarantees. Your wife is also probably frustrated about being trapped in the house and stressed about finances, too.
It is not surprising to me that “women still can’t have it all” and “men can’t have it all either.” The simple fact is WomenMenNo One Can Have It All
Over the past generation or so, we’ve seen a huge shift in expectations and opportunities for women. While much progress has been made (and we are all the better for it), women still face stereotypes and discrimination as they “try to have it all” and move beyond traditional role expectations.
The current difficulties for women in the workplace and women trying to balance work and family were covered brilliantly by Anne-Marie Slaughter in a recent Atlantic cover story (and far more stupidly superficially by Ann Friedman in NY Magazine). Slaughter’s article deservedly received accolades and huge amounts of media attention, and I know I’m very late to the party in commenting on it. (And to her immense credit, Slaughter also wrote a great follow-up piece on men, work and family)
In short, Slaughter makes the case that women still face significant obstacles and difficulties as they try to remain heavily involved in their traditional roles (parenting, caretaking) while also expanding their involvement in traditional men’s roles (providing, working outside the home).
There is increasing evidence that the converse is increasingly true for men. Men now face significant obstacles and difficulties as they try to remain heavily involved in their traditional roles (providing, working outside the home) while also expanding their involvement in traditional women’s roles (parenting, caretaking).