Work-life balance is important, like, super important. Jeff Bezos, CEO and Founder of Amazon, likes to refer to it as work-life harmony. Balance implies a juggling act whereas work-life harmony is where your personal and professional life compliment each other. We thrive at work when we are focused and present, and the same applies for home.
In June 2017, I did a study with 100 parents of children under five. Twenty-nine men responded. In answering the following question, "Do you find it hard being a working parent and managing your child or children challenging?," only 7% said they don’t find it hard to manage work and their family. Over half, 59% to be exact, said that they do struggle, and 34% found it easier due to being stay-at-home fathers.
More and more research is showing that the millennial generation of first-time fathers feel that their role is just as important as a mother’s. Who knows, by 2020, perhaps, there will be the same amount of father blogs as there are mommy ones? But what really is going on in a man’s mind when he’s dealing with being a new father?
After all, if we’re talking about work-life harmony, life and death affect most areas of an employee’s life. Let’s take the case of having a child. The need for paternity leave is just as important as maternity leave. The stigma of the primary caregiver seems to begin even before the time of a child’s birth, and it kind of develops throughout parenthood.
Here’s what a few men said about their experiences of being a working dad and having a baby. For confidentiality, we won’t go there and state any names.
Forced to work when they want to be home
“With my FMLA I was forced to use vacation and personal time. I hated to burn my time like that. But it was worth every minute.”
“Every dad I know either did take time or wished like hell they could have afforded to.”
“Took a month off and really needed more, but I couldn’t afford it”.
Society judges men who seek out work-life harmony
“My boss tried to discourage me from taking leave. He said it would be bad for my career. He's old school plus the unwritten rule is dads don't take the leave. All the other dads where I work never take the leave.”
“There is a stigma. A lot of people (especially older people) believe that it’s unmanly to stay at home. The dad should be there for the birth and then go back to work. I guess their thinking is that it’s a woman’s job to deal with the baby.
“The guy I worked with got teased because he took a month off.”
What paternity leave?
“They allowed me the day of the birth and the day coming home from the hospital as unpaid time off and that's it.”
Planning babies around work
“Luckily my kiddo showed up smack dab in summertime. I’m a teacher so I had a month off. Later on I said to my wife, we should plan any other kids to come during summer.”
If we all do our part to support the need for work-life equality, then maybe we’ll pave the way and no one will be worried about the birth of a baby affecting her OR his job. Men increasingly want to be involved in taking care of their children, too — yet, they're judged for their choices, and in some cases, are forced to use vacation time.
So, what can each of us do within our sphere of influence? For starters, why not make it a habit to ask new fathers how they are coping with being back at work. When a friend, co-worker or relative takes time off work, let’s make it our practice to reaffirm the importance of their decision. And if you’re already doing that, then kudos to you.
What we heard from the hearts of several men really does show that they seek a career that compliments their life — not just the other way around.