We have noticed a definite change in the last couple of years: dads are becoming more and more involved in parenting responsibilities, even making changes to their working roles or patterns. Indeed, we have been seeing more examples of informal flexibility amongst dads, who are keen to gain a better mix of working and parenting.
Parenting for Professionals carried out a mini-poll last year to working dads: 85% of respondents expressed a desire for more flexible working arrangements in the early months of having a baby, as well as a chance to review and change their work/life balance.
Policies are also becoming more supportive of the working father: the government emphasises the need for fathers to be more involved in the upbringing of their children and the 2015 shared parental leave changes should help. Additional Paternity Leave (APL) has at least given fathers the right to have up to 26 weeks of additional leave if the mother has returned to work – but statistics show that take-up has been lower than expected (the TUC reported on 17 June 2013 that only 1 in 172 fathers take up APL – less than 1%).
Because of the recession, more women have returned to work, so many families are finding they are forced to share the juggling act of drop off and pick up times to nursery and school as well as sharing the role of who stays at home when a child is ill. Not only this, but as divorce rates have risen, many fathers are less able to rely on mothers to be the primary carer for their children, especially when they are also working.
So it feels like many fathers want to be more involved in parenting; many are forced into it because of the recession, but why aren’t more fathers actively and formally choosing to devote more time to parenting responsibilities?
One major problem is that it takes a change in culture a lot longer to catch up with a change in policy. Without senior fathers in organisations openly and confidently promoting their own work/life balance, there is no incentive for other working fathers to take the risk of applying for additional paternity leave or flexible working.
Fathers also need support so that they can learn a new generational set of skills: how to manage their work/parenting balance. In a recent corporate seminar for over 40 working dads, we uncovered some key challenges that working dads face:
- Getting the right home/work balance
How do I make sure I fulfil my parenting responsibilities whilst not letting my career prospects slip? The answer to this will be different for everyone and can be found by initially considering and talking through personal and family values.
- Managing expectations at work and feeling comfortable to leave work to spend time with the family
This is where dads need to acknowledge the fact that their lives are changing and that work patterns need to accommodate home life. It means that an open dialogue will be needed with managers and a degree of understanding from the team. This can pose problems in team where the culture does not support flexibility and work/life balance.
- Managing the logistics
Ensuring the whole family is happy with the decision of who is working and how long they are working for. Are both partners going to work full time? Is one partner going to take their foot off the career pedal for a while? If so, who? If you are a single father – what support and help do you need to make your working life as flexible as possible?
Skills such as these take time to learn and many a long discussion. We are firm believers that if we are able to keep working dads high on the business agenda, cultural change will happen quicker and dads will feel empowered to fulfil both roles as fathers and as professionals.
Parenting for Professionals runs regular 1-hour lunch and learn sessions as well as longer, more in-depth 2-hour sessions for expectant and working dads. These sessions consider all of the above issues and encourage discussion around solutions. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.parentingforprofessionals.co.uk
- Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, Paternity Leave and a Step Forward (fathersworkandfamily.com)
- Why Working Mothers Need Paternity Leave (helloladies.com)
- Dads could share leave with mums after child born (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Fathers’ Day: Fathers should get ‘use it or lose it’ parental leave (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Few men’ take extra paternity leave (oddonion.com)