Employer support (or lack thereof) creates ripple effects for families. The following story illustrates the negative ripple effects that a non-supportive employer has, not just on working dads, but also on their spouses, kids, and their own bottom line.
The other day, I was chatting with a new colleague. She had just returned from the workforce after having opted out of her career due to family demands. Her two young children had health problems, meaning that she and her husband needed some family support from their employers — but never received it.
Her husband worked for a very old-school, non-family-friendly company and was unable to compromise any of his work hours, use telework or make the informal arrangements that are often so helpful in balancing work and family demands. Family accommodation would have a huge impact on his standing in the company and his career. But his job did pay well and had good benefits. So, he stuck it out at work, trapped in a provider role that severely limited the amount of time he had for family. Meanwhile, my colleague quit her job and spent the past five years as a hardworking SAHM. She would have rather kept working, but had to compromise her career.
Sadly, this story is rather common; family demands spike, necessitating more parental involvement. Since many workplaces and our society are not conducive to shared parental care, very often one spouse works far more than they would prefer, and the other works far less. Both are trapped into traditional gender roles that neither signed up for. In this way, a non-supportive employer can ruin time for family and life.
Fast forward a few years. My colleague’s husband left his unsupportive employer and joined a new, much more progressive firm. He can now work remotely when he needs to, and his bosses and the corporate culture supports his family time and commitments. He can be successful in his career and an actively involved father.
My colleague doesn’t have to shoulder the entire parenting load herself anymore, and, well, she’s back at work — just as she always wanted to be.
I’m so happy their story has a happy ending. They were able to find their happy balance because of employer support. I wish we all could be so fortunate, and look forward to the day when attaining success in career and family does not depend on the whims of management.
Some employers are starting to “get it,” but more work needs to be done. We need to keep talking about working fathers’ issues- not just because it affects dads, but because it affects all of us. The more conversations we have with coworkers, friends, colleagues, and, yes bosses, the better off we all will be. The more it is discussed, the importance of workplace support for fathers becomes more and more evident.
This piece was originally published on Scott Behson's website. Scott Behson, PhD, is a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a national expert in work and family issues, and was a featured speaker at the recent White House Summit on Working Families and the United Nations.
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