Stockholm Syndrome, Learned Helplessness and Working Fathers

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.

My cat's been an indoor cat so long, she doesn't even try to leave when we leave the door open. Sound familiar? photo credit: flossyflotsam via photopin cc
My cat’s been an indoor cat so long, she doesn’t even try to go outside when we leave the door open. photo credit: flossyflotsam via photopin cc

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:

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Two Incomes are Better Than One*

* 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. 

As these Muppets will tell you, two heads, er, incomes are better than one

(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.

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