Monday, December 17, 2007

Daddy Wars at Work

I love this piece by Stephanie Armour appearing in USA Today last week, right down to its title: “Workplace Tensions Rise as Dads Seek Family Time.” A synopsis:

Todd Scott leaves his job every day at 5 p.m. to be with his family – and even then feels guilty he isn’t spending enough time with Hunter, 4, and Anna, 1. By contrast, Scott’s boss, Steve Himmelrich, who has two children and is a more traditional-style dad, spends long days, free time and some weekends at the office. Both acknowledge these differing choices have been a source of tension between them. Their situation reflects the conflicts that are becoming increasingly common in workplaces across the nation, as fathers press for more family time and something other than a traditional career path. Dads are demanding paternity leave, flexible work schedules, telecommuting and other new benefits. They’ve also prompted several Fortune 500 companies to begin pitching such family-friendly benefits to men – and inspired a new wave of workplace discrimination complaints filed by dads.

The article cites a survey by Monster that found nearly 70% of fathers surveyed reporting that they would consider being a stay-at-home parent if money were no object. And--are you sitting down?--"the survey also found that working dads are increasingly tapping into benefits that until just a few years ago were used almost exclusively by mothers: 71% of fathers with a child under age 5 took paternity leave when it was offered by their employer." This goes counter to what I've heard from researchers. Help me out here. Is this good news true?! (If it is, count me in for a happy dance.)

Analysts attribute the change to generation. Today's fathers in their 20s and 30s don't typically adhere to the philosophies or career tracks followed by previous generations. To wit:

For generations, "Fathers have defined success as big cars, big salaries, big homes. But dads now define success as a good relationship with their children and spouse," says Armin Brott of Fathers At Work, an Oakland-based business that specializes in helping men find a balance between work and family. "It's really a generational change, but it's hard," Brott says. "There's tension, and there's this sense out there that careers will suffer."

Clearly, that sense needs to be corrected with some data. My dream is that organizations like Catalyst will soon be taking this on. Sounds like Fathers at Work is already on it. Their tagline is "Transforming Job-Family Conflict into Competitive Advantage." And they offer companies workshops called "Balancing Father Stress and Professional Success." I can't wait to interview these guys for my next book.


Anne Libby said...

Maybe this is generational (I'm at the high end of X) but I don't know of a single b-school classmate or corporate colleague who has taken formal paternity leave.

Now, I do know men who have used time between jobs as family time, or who have chosen jobs (like sales) that give them flexible schedules.

Question is: what kind of controls did the Monster survey have? It is a great message...but I don't see it.

Deborah Siegel said...

I'm with you, Anne. I want to believe, but other research I've seen tells a different story. Am hoping one of my Council on Contemporary Families colleagues (sociologists) will help me out and post the goods....(Calling CCF!)

marc said...

The Monster study probably had all the right controls, but I'm concerned with their wording. Saying that Dads "would" take off work or have "tapped into [what kind of?] benefits" by no means makes them equivalent to Moms working a second shift. I take a study like this as a good sign, perhaps moving beyond earlier studies (I think of Hochschild's Amerco where the policies were there but men didn't use them).

Perhaps it's time for an eighth of a glass of champaign?

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