Working Dads: The New Working Moms

I recently attended the Families and Work Institute Legacy Award dinner in New York City where I was able to hear an intriguing working mother-daughter panel. As I listened to this dynamic group share their experiences, I couldn't help but think about my two sons who are both working fathers. They are role models for how their children will perceive the relationship between work and personal life. It is encouraging to see my sons actively engaged in every aspect of their sons and daughters' lives. But I find it strange that the term 'working father' is one we seldom hear.

The critical importance of the role of flexibility in how, when and where work is done cannot be overlooked when it comes to working fathers. It is equally important for men to be able to be active parents as it is for women to be involved mothers. 

The Families and Work Institute’s 2011 paper, The New Male Mystique – based on the 2009 National Study of the Changing Workforce that found that men now experience more work-family conflict than women – examines the underlying reasons behind the rising work-family conflict men are experiencing. The paper finds that although men live in a society where gender roles have become more egalitarian and where women contribute increasingly to family economic well-being, men have retained the “traditional male mystique”— the pressure to be the primary financial providers for their families. Today’s fathers work longer hours than men the same age who don’t have children and are much more involved in their home lives than men in the past. In other words, men are experiencing what women experienced when they first entered the workforce in record numbers – the pressure to “do it all in order to have it all.”

Working fathers today face many of the issues and challenges that working mothers have been dealing with for decades – more control over how, when, where and how much they work without being penalized. A survey of senior Fortune 500 male executives had some surprising results.

  • 84 percent would like job options that let them realize their professional aspirations while having more time for things outside of work.
  • 55 percent would be willing to sacrifice their income.
  • Half wonder if the sacrifices they have made for their careers are worth it.

In our work with corporate clients, FlexPaths is finding that no matter what the starting point for the organization's flex initiative is, it's only by bringing men – who, after all are still half the workforce – into the process that they will be able to achieve the business results that creating a more flexible and agile workforce and workplace make possible.

Research has shown that when employees have more control over their work and personal life, they are less stressed, more focused, and more committed to the success of the organization. In addition, it's good to keep in mind that the next generation of children is also the next generation of employees. The better their dads (and moms) make them, the better off we'll all be.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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