"Please don't just make it about moms. Dads care just as much about the work-life conversation. Don't leave us out."
-My friend Steve, father of two
When I started my practice, I had a lot more mom clients than dads. I was committed to making the conversation gender neutral on principle, because I knew that work-life is just as important to dads as it is to moms. I am married to a guy who clearly was born to be an amazing dad. Becoming a parent changed his life as much as it did mine. Ultimately though, it was my friend Steve's plea that convinced me to make my commitment official: I named my company REworking Parents.
Over the past four or so years since then, a lot of in-depth research has been done on fatherhood and I've done a lot of co-parenting myself. Needless to say, my view of gender in working parenthood has changed a lot. I know that dads are more involved than ever in parenting and domestic work. On the other hand, I know that a lot of social expectations haven't changed. Whether I am working more or less hours than my partner, I am always the "go-to parent" for all doctors, teachers and childcare providers. One client referred to her husband as a typical "modern dad", a sensitive guy who is extremely engaged with his kids. When there are logistical parenting problems to solve, (e.g figuring out childcare alternatives) he's conspicuously absent, while she is left to figure it out on her own.
I've also worked with hundreds of mothers and fathers inside and outside of organizations since starting my practice. In my experience, moms clients frame the career conversation around working AND parenthood. In contrast, dad clients tend to compartmentalize, separating their questions, and takeaways from parenthood and work as much as possible. Each gender faces its own double standard at work. Moms tend to feel guilty for not being with their kids enough, but are penalized for time spent away from work to be with kids. Dads want more time with their kids but are much less likely than moms to take advantage of flexibility and family leave.
Otherwise, both moms and dads are asking the same questions: How do I find challenging and fulfilling work in fast growing/changing workplace? How can compete with younger workers who are willing to work all the time when I want time to see my kids? How do I keep momentum in my career and be the kind of parent and person I want to be? According to a 2012 Pew Study, 56% of moms and 50% of dads say work-life integration is hard. The same study found 63% of moms and 60% of dads rating child-care activities as “very meaningful.” We are thinking a lot a like.
I am paying close attention to these similarities and differences as I am writing and talking to dads about working parenthood. I know that if the working parenthood conversation can shift to be more gender neutral, we are going to make more progress changing policies and organizational cultures. But we aren't there yet.
So I want to hear from you. Do you see the roles of moms and dads as equal around working parenthood or not so much? Maybe you think this conversation is not about gender at all, but about earning potential and job status instead? Maybe this conversation seems about as current as these. I want to hear all of it. I want to know if we can open the mommy wars up to dads. Or maybe just keep the peace together. Post on my blog or on facebook to keep the conversation going and find more resources.
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