Why Amazon Family Matters

amfam
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For the past few weeks, many in the dad blogging community have united around the cause to get Amazon.com to change the name of their parent-centric shopping site from “Amazon Mom” to “Amazon Family.”

To many, verbiage like “Amazon Mom” seems like a small concern. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it is. However, to me, these words are an indicator of how our society often undervalues fathers and, by implication, places an unfair burden on mothers. After all, if only “moms” are full “parents,” so much of the burden shifts to them. Many others have written about the societal implications of such messaging for both moms and dads, so today, I’d like to focus on how this notion that parenting is woman’s work insidiously makes its way into corporate culture- to the detriment of working dads, working moms, kids and employers themselves.

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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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How Family Support For Dads Also Helps Working Moms, Kids and Employers

My colleague’s story illustrates the negative ripple effects that a non-supportive employer has, not just on working dads, but also on their spouses, kids, and their own bottom line.

Employer support (or lack thereof) creates ripple effects for families (pixaby.com, creative commons)
Employer support (or lack thereof) creates ripple effects for families (pixaby.com, creative commons)

The other day, I was chatting with a new colleague. She had just returned from the workforce after having opted out of her career due to family demands. Her two young children had health problems, meaning that she and her husband needed some family support from their employers- but never received it.

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The Changing Role of Men at Work and at Home- A Conversation at Womenetics

I was recently asked to contribute a short piece on the changing role of men in work-family for Womenetics.com, a leading website for professional women.

I don't like to call myself an expert, but I like it when others do! (click on the pic for my essay)
I don’t like to call myself an expert, but I like it when others do! (click on the pic for my essay)

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Hey Slacker Dad- Parent the Way You Want, Stop Being A Jerk About It

An article in the Guardian defending traditional dads from the peer pressure of “50/50 dads” goes too far in trying to make its case- at one point, insulting involved dads by calling them “Wet Wipes.” Let’s stop with the Daddy Wars, please.

Alex Bilmes' article makes a decent point- IF you can make your way through the layers of judgment and condescension towards other dads.
The layers of judgment and condescension towards other dads obscures the one decent point in Alex Bilmes’ article.

My advice to Alex Bilmes- be whatever type of parent you want to be (short of being abusive or neglectful), let others choose their own styles, and stop being a judgmental jerk about it.

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The Pew Research Report, Breadwinner Moms, Misleading Headlines and the Challenges of Dual-Income Households

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?

The Pew Study documents the frequency of different types of dual-income households
The Pew Study tracks the changes in household earnings over 50 years

The headline of the new Pew Study (released May 29th) is “Breadwinner Moms“- as their research shows that 40% of US households with kids either have a single mother as sole provider or have a dual-income arrangement in which the wife out-earns the husband (this caused the oldwhiteguys at FoxNews to wig out!)

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.

The real take-away from the Pew Study should be that dual-income couples are the norm, and have been for some time.

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How We Maintained Work-Family Balance During a Spike in Work Demands

About two months ago, I wrote about my wife’s new show, and how her work hours would spike for several weeks. I discussed our family’s plan for handling this time period, considering my work commitments and increased duties at home. The show is over, so now it’s time to see how we did, and what lessons we learned.

My wife's career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling
My wife’s career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

(On Monday, I’ll be commenting on this week’s Pew Study’s findings on breadwinning moms and dual-career couples- SB)

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that my incredible wife Amy is a musical theater actress, and, depending on the project, her work schedule is often demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible.

About two months ago, Amy began work on an excellent new play, “The English Bride”. The play was very well-received (see this review!), so much so that it will run at the 59 E59 Theater off-Broadway, NYC in the Fall.

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What I Want My Son to Learn About Work and Family (part 2): My Wife’s Career is as Important as Mine

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.

I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
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.

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