What Working Moms Want Dads To Know (Father’s Day)
The dad to our kids is an amazing guy. He has those same feelings of watching a small version of himself grow and learn with love and aghast. He also loves the toes on your youngest. He, too, works all day to come home and be with his family. And he’s your partner in this adventure of parenthood.
Yet even with all that, do you find yourself sometimes wishing for more? And maybe not just him specifically, but all men? Men at work, male friends, male leaders? What would you want them to know?
OUR NEWBORN IDENTITY
For starters, I want them to understand that from the very moment when a woman first finds out she is pregnant, her identity already is beginning to change. And once the baby is born, women are fully thrust into their role feeding, dressing and managing this new life – all while recovering from the physical trauma of birth. Yet too often men seem to be a few steps behind the change curve into fatherhood. Despite dated interpretations of attachment parenting theory or the lack of male role models, men are more than capable of being ‘involved’ parents in the babies first year of life through intensive and regular one-on-one time, which increases his prolactin levels creating that surge of love for his child. So let’s make that journey into parenthood a little more in-sync.
The next identify shift that men need to understand is the transition back to work – often just a few short months (or weeks) after we took on the new job of motherhood. Here, many women struggle with the conflict between being an ‘ideal worker’ and ‘the perfect mother’. I know from personal experience it’s exhausting maintaining a wall between these roles, on top of the motherhood penalty and the broken rung. It’s no wonder moms these days are looking for more workplace flexibility to help break down those barriers and reduce the battle between these roles. Whether it’s working from home or in-office childcare, bringing our two worlds together gives us a little space to breathe and ultimately allows us to be more successful both at work and home. Advocating on behalf of these sorts of benefits can help make this transition go smoother.
BEING A MALE ALLY IN THE WORKPLACE
I’d also ask men to open up about their childcare responsibilities at work. Dads need to share when they are coming in late because they dropped off the kids at school or popping out early for a school performance, rather than letting it be a taboo subject. Creating a network of allies – such as a dad’s network in the workplace that encourages men to show their commitment to their family – provides both support and advocacy for all parents in the workplace while reducing the stigma for moms.
Men should also be requesting – and taking – paternity leave. New motherhood is lonely and exhausting and studies show that men taking time off following the birth provides significant mental and physical health benefits for new moms – including reducing prescriptions for antibiotics and anti-anxiety medication and less visits to the hospital. It’s good for the fathers too. Men who took even two weeks of paternity leave when their children were born are less likely to be divorced and have better relationships with their children. Lastly, for those still in the office while new parents are on leave, be sure to talk about them and honor their achievements, rather than falling back on ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ mentality.
REDEFINING WHAT ‘EQUAL’ DIVISION OF LABOR MEANS
I’d want to know if men really think they are pulling their weight at home. Studies say that women spend upwards of 5 more hours a day on chores, and new research says that female breadwinners tend to do extra housework to compensate. It seems this extra work is taken on not when women out earn men, but when mothers out earn fathers, even if the man was unemployed. The only way through this traditional effect? Conversation.
Still, many of the women I talk to say their partner is supportive, but moms are still overwhelmed. I understand – when my kids were babies, I packed every diaper bag, changed most diapers and fed most of the meals. Now that they are getting older, my husband can take the lead on these types of activities, but the mental load is still firmly with me. Does that constitute fair play or even division of household tasks? A time audit and a family discussion may be in order.
WE WANT MORE OF YOU, BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU
Men should know that we love them. Even with our high standards (or even basic standards), their participation is welcomed because we care for them and we know the kids do, too. The world is changing quickly, and communication is needed to ensure that we don’t fall into traditional expectations. Men, we want more from you, not because we are overwhelmed (well, not exclusively), but because we love and value what you bring to the parenting dynamic, both at home and work.