Working Dads Don’t Have it All?

Jun 14, 2012 by

With Father’s Day on the horizon, I thought that I would share this interesting article that I discovered the other day, which focuses on the increasing pressure that dads feel, to ‘have it all’.  On a daily basis I innocently believed that my husband did in fact ‘have it all’. Are there some minor things that would make his life easier? Yes, obviously! I know that he wishes he had more free time to work out, to browse on the computer, to watch TV, and to focus on his fantasy baseball team. But overall, I always assumed that he was happy with his work-life balance. I honestly did not believe that my husband encountered the same pressures that I did, as a working parent. For example, after the birth of our daughters no one ever accusingly asked him if he was “returning to work?”

There have been several occasions that these assumptions about my husband have caused me to feel resentful. I don’t think that my husband stresses as much as I do about certain things related to our daughters. For example, I schedule and organize all the extracurricular activities, play dates, birthday parties, summer camps, vacations, pick-ups and drop-offs. My husband drives to work, comes home, eats dinner, plays with the girls, gives them a bath, and helps with bedtime. However, let me clarify, I do not wish to over-simplify; one thing I have never taken for granted is that my husband is a modern dad. He has always co-parented with me. He changes diapers, picks out dresses, brushes and attempts to braid hair. Recently he went on a shopping trip to Nordstrom to pick out new summer shoes for our girls. I know that this fatherly role is much more modern and revolutionized than how he was raised.  He truly is a modern Dad and I appreciate that.

However, I have always assumed that his work-life balance completely satisfied him, never once did it cross my mind that he felt pressure to spend more time with the girls. I have never given much thought to how the responsibilities associated with raising our daughters have impacted his professional career. As naïve and ignorant as this may seem, I always felt that my husband had and continues to have it a lot easier than I do. This article caused me to take pause and assess my husband’s perspective on the issue of work-life balance. I asked my husband to read the article and comment. I thought it would be interesting if he co-wrote this post with me. Here are his thoughts…

CHRIS:

The biggest detriment to my “having it all” is time. Specifically, the lack of it. 

I’ve found it difficult to juggle the responsibilities that are historically thought of as the dad’s (mowing the lawn, painting, household repairs, general house maintenance, etc) with the modern dad duties (making dinner, grocery shopping, giving the kids a bath, shopping for shoes). Moreover, it’s not easy to find the time to do the traditional dad things while trying to spend quality time with the kids and my wife. On the weekends I often find myself having to choose between bringing my daughter to her parent-child swim class and mowing the lawn. There is never enough time to get everything done that I want to get done. With the evolution of the modern dad the classic ‘manly’ projects seem less important and get slotted in when there is time, or extra money to hire someone else to do it (my personal preference). 

I think for dads to “have it all” it really helps to work for an employer who understands the evolving role of the father. My boss gets it. But many employers don’t seem to understand the increased parental role for the modern dad. Take a look at the average paternity benefit that employers offer to male employees. It is virtually non-existent. The fact that a dad may need to leave work early because his child is sick and needs to see the doctor can often be viewed in a negative manner. I recently found myself having to leave work unexpectedly in the middle of the day because I had to bring my daughter to an appointment. My wife was in an important meeting and my schedule allowed for me to leave. I’m lucky, because I happen to work in a supportive environment, but I know several men where this situation would be uncomfortable. 

My own life experience did not fully prepare me for modern day fatherhood. When I was growing up, my Dad worked and my Mom stayed at home. It was the traditional, old school division of parental and household responsibilities. I have chosen to modernize and to take on more responsibilities, even if that means other more stereotypical jobs don’t get completed in the short-term.  

I think that mothers need to take the time to look at the work-life balance from a dad’s perspective, because it’s not as easy as you may think. Dads do feel pressure, and dads do face social stereotypes that are not always easy to overcome. Working dads face many of the same conflicts that working moms do. More than “having it all” I believe in the motto that all working parents are “in it together.”

However, at the end of the day I love spending time with my family, and I do feel lucky to have been able to achieve the work-life balance that I currently have.

I’m glad that I came across this article, because it was eye opening and did allow my husband and I to have an open and honest conversation about balance.

However, as informative as this article was, I have a major issue with the final section, which discusses Scott Bouma, a 35 year old husband and father of four, who has a stay at home wife and apparently feels no pressure to  do “all that stuff” because his wife takes care of it. Really? Do you think it’s that simple? Have a stay at home wife and you really can have it all?! In my opinion this is where the article comes up short in a big way, and I’m disappointed that the author decided to the end the piece with this. I know several Dads, who have wives that stay at home, and in my experience they feel pressure, and in some instances they feel resentful of their wives. I do not believe for one second that the solution to dads feeling pressure about achieving a work-life balance is for moms to stay home. It’s more complicated than that.

Either way, this article was informative, opened my eyes about some issues our modern dads face, and provided a platform for my husband and I to discuss the issue of work-life balance from his perspective.

 

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Sarah Bourne Perillo

Sarah lives with her husband and three daughters in the greater Farmington Valley area of CT. Aside from her most important job of being a mom, Sarah works for the Connecticut General Assembly as a budget analyst and serves as the President of the UCONN chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha. Aside from her family, Sarah derives great joy from visiting Vermont (her native state!), running, reading, having dinner and drinks with her girls (not her daughters), and riding alone in the car with the music uncomfortably loud. She hopes that this blog will affect new mothers, working mothers, stay at home mothers, stressed mothers, and perfect mothers, positively.

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4 Comments

  1. Michelle

    I really love this post Sarah. I love what Chris says about how he struggles doing both the traditional “man” stuff and the modern “man” stuff. I didn’t realize that other people have this same issue, because we do. My husband constantly feels conflicted on the weekends because he is the one that mows the lawn and does all of that stuff and then he doesn’t feel like he has enough time with the family.

    Chris if you’re reading this – very well written and thank you for sharing your point of view.

  2. Katie Schunk

    Such a great article! I am guilty of that and it definitely puts it in perspective!

  3. AmyS

    I think Chris hit the nail on the head for all “modern” fathers. My husband is self-employed, is on pick-up & dinner duty with our boys, and would probably tell you he struggles with all the same things!

  4. Sofia

    Great article!!! Ever since my husband and I were dating, he worked second shift and continued to do so until our daughter started kindergarten. He started third shift stating that if he stayed on second he would never get to see her except for the weekends. He works all night, sleeps when he can, stays home with our son, does homework with our daughter after school, and does his “man responsibilities” on Saturday or Sunday. He does get to the gym by paying for the daycare that The Edge provides. My husband is superman in his own right.

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