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November 07, 2011

Working Dads: Not Just Drop-Off

Img-blog-dad-as-naturersAs a female entrepreneur, I've spent a lot of time in the last year speaking about the power of women in the economy. From local colleges in Boston to the World Economic Forum in China, I've shared my story of starting a company while raising two boys. But I've found that it's impossible for me to discuss my own rise as a working mother – and the juggle of building a career and a family – without crediting Ron, my husband, both in the workplace and at home.

I know first-hand how important dads are in the modern family. Ron, my husband since college, has always approached our life as a "we." When we had Ryan as young parents he was equally involved in the childcare. We attended graduate school together. When I started, Ron ensured that we would be able to do it. We both worked at what we loved to do – raising a family and starting Ron took on the early role to be my watchful and intuitive partner; sometimes questioning, never discouraging, always there.

Ron isn't alone. Our generation of dads – which includes President Barack Obama, who often discusses and wrote about his parenting roles – started a wave of active parenting that I'm excited to see has only continued in the younger Generation Y group. Whether it's because of younger twentysomethings who view work and life through the prism of their own happiness and fulfillment; or that the poor economy has disproportionately affected men through job losses; or simply, the reality that more women are in the workplace resulting in household equity at home, there is a shift of men from traditional "provider" roles to "nurturer" ones. And we're seeing it on, too. Fathers are playing a big role on as displayed in postings for childcare jobs to discussions in our Groups page to even a recent story about a dad who found a childcare job on

I usually end my speeches asking both men and women to take a pledge to encourage more equity, both at home and in the workplace. I personally feel it's critical to the growth of our economy. But I believe it goes both ways. Companies need to recognize the rise of both parents sharing childcare responsibilities.  

And we at hear from companies looking to keep their employees focused, engaged and inspired. Familiar parenting terms, right? I believe the answer is respect, collaboration and giving people the ability to love their whole life. If that means ensuring that a dad can do pick-up or drop-off everyday, then find a way to make it work.

So, what do you think? Do you see this shift in modern dads playing more of a role in parenting and nurturing kids? What role do they play in child care?

How do your and your spouse's companies compare? Do you feel they'd be supportive of shared parenting roles?

I'd love to hear from you and your spouse. What changes do companies and society need to make to have shared parenting more of the norm?

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This is a great article. My wife and I have a 15 month old. My wife works full time as well as attends school some evening and weekends. Because of this I have taken a much more nurturing role in my daughters life. I feel that many work places still feel it is the males responsibility to provide and the females to take care of the child. I deal with this battle as I have to leave earlier than most people so I can pick my daughter up from daycare while my wife is at work or school. I get questioned constantly about why I am leaving. My boss is aware of why I need to leave however is "old school" in he provides and his wife stays home and takes care of the kids. It is a battle I will continue to fight...and feel good about. Spending time with my daughter is everything to me.

Chris Bell

I enjoyed the article and agree with much of what is said. When I went to the suggested links to look for community response I was puzzled. This article is about the increasing inclusion of men into the parenting role and there is a reference to pledging equity... Yet all of the national groups are for moms - "Working Moms", "Stay-At-Home Moms" - the group page's title is "Moms Club". In our household my wife and I both work but my work is part time - so that our kids can have a parent available to them - and I do nearly all of the childcare related activities during the week.

Taking care of the kids is not something I ever envisioned doing but I've realized how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. It's not easy for me - it doesn't come naturally so I have personal obstacles to overcome and the societal bias makes dealing with them more difficult.

That there is such a strong bias is clearly shown in this article. It is in support of including the father in parenting and yet even in this paradigm the expectation is that it will be mothers, not fathers, that provide the primary childcare. I certainly recognize that this is, in fact, almost always the case and so its easy to understand why this is so... mothers really do most of the childcare, even when the father is more involved than has been traditional.

I suppose my point is that because even those that suggest that childcare should be equitable its pretty unlikely to occur without a huge shift in thinking.

When I see "Parents Club" and "Working Parents" groups then we'll be a lot closer to achieving equity. Until then, we all need to accept that this is the way it is and that unless we're all able to realign things won't be very different.

But there it is... being a stay at home dad is strange, often uncomfortable and sometimes lonely - but its worth it.

Rockin Dad

I think that there is a greater issue at stake here, and especially in the US (I moved over from UK a few years ago), and that is the role of, firstly, the mother - where it's not uncommon for women in Europe to have 12 months off post baby, where there is an element of full pay, partial then Maternity allowance paid to mothers. Also the prospect of her job when she returns. I find and hear that the US is so dismissive (again from these baby boomer company CEO's) that assume that youre not committed to the company, need all that time off and therefore will hire someone else unless you return after 4-6weeks!!
In Europe Paternity, yes PATERNITY can last that long for the dads if they plan it correctly with holiday etc...

I could go on, but feel that both parents (and the children) are penalized by tearing apart what in effect is a vital bond between mum and dad in those formative weeks and as a family unit sharing and supporting each other!

Christopher Reed

The article is a good start, but, like Chris Bell mentioned, we have a way to go before we achieve that "equality" bar where dads are thought of as a (or the) nurturing parent, and we begin to see "Parent's Day Out" and "Parent's Clubs" that accept any parent regardless whether they are the mom or dad.

In my case, I am a single dad raising 4 children ages 8, 9, 13 and 16 on my own with a full-time M-F 40 to 50 hour a week job in a stressful engineering environment in North Dallas, TX. Thankfully, all of my children are occupied by school during the day and old enough to fend for themselves in the 2 to 3 hours they are on there own after school each day.

Like D.S., I, too, sometimes have to leave early or take off from work during the day to attend parent-teacher conferences, lunch with your kid days, etc., but my company is much more flexible and understanding in this area since many of our employees today also have working spouses. Thus, our management understands that the "working mom" does not always have the flexibility to leave her job every time something occurs with the children during business hours. In my case, I also have the ability to work from home to make up for any lost time.

As "The Parent", the majority of my evenings are spent occupied with one or more of shopping, cooking, tutoring, cleaning, playing with the kids, and, on rare occasions getting a full 8 hours of sleep. Intermixed in all of this is, of course, being the nurturing parent. With 4 kids, each one needs a certain amount of my time and attention with my 2 youngest (of 3 daughters) by far requiring the most. Jealousy for my time and affection tends to be a recurring source of hostility between them and is not always easy to fix with such little of my time available daily. To overcome this, I have to plan "special" evenings with one or the other for some alone time for them to fill that emotional need.

However, this is definitely not the way I planned for my life to turn out as I am much more comfortable in my role of being the provider. As a result of my "whole parenting" experience, I have gained a great appreciation for all the things "mom" was responsible for previously, and I am definitely looking forward to having a "Dad's Day Out" sometime soon. :-)

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