How Working Dads Can Support Working Moms
“If you think being a mom is a full-time job, try being a working mom.”
Family life can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. However, with the changing times, the roles fathers and mothers play in the family have changed drastically.
With the growing number of mothers becoming a crucial part of the U.S. workforce, both parents now need to care for their families while working full-time jobs.
However, at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, mothers seem to be doing most of the heavy loading when it comes to taking care of the family.
Being a mother, that too with a full-time job is never easy. It never was. Being a responsible mother, a doting wife and a dedicated employee can be exceptionally challenging, to say the least.
Perhaps this is why working dads need to step us and make sure their working spouse is not doing all the heavy lifting by themselves.
It is only by supporting your working spouse reach their full potential in their career and helping them build a happy family, can a working father show how much he truly cares for his family.
Helping working mothers
“A wife is a gift bestowed upon man to reconcile him to the loss of paradise.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?
The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers due to childcare. Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.
An issue of work culture
“Behind every working woman is an enormous pile of unwashed laundry.” – Barbara Dale
This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.
Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.
This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.
The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick. In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.
A need for focusing on inequity
“Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.” – Walter Winchell
Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving the untapped business and human potential on the table.