Do dads get short shrift at work? When it comes to scooting out early to pick a kid up from summer camp or day care, are moms more likely to get accommodated? And, what about at-home dads...are they given the respect they deserve.
Over the weekend, I watched Kramer vs. Kramer. It has been a long time since I've seen the movie in which a just divorced man must learn to care for his son on his own, and then must fight in court to keep custody of him. Mr. Kramer loses his high paying job when child care issues pop up over and over. His boss doesn't think he's committed to his job. The movie, starring Dustin Hoffman and made in 1979, made me think about whether much has changed for dads.
Do dedicated dads balancing work and family get treated fairly in 2012?
That depends on who you work for but I would say we've seen improvement. For the most part, I think bosses understand work life conflict, and they're understanding -- to a point.
I read some fascinating articles this weekend on dads pegged to Father's Day. Some of my favorites were about single dads, including one in the Augusta Chronicle which applauded those who are trying their best to be the best. I especially admire Miami Heat basketball star Dwyane Wade, who was profiled in a front page piece in The Miami Herald. Wade has a book coming out in September on his experiences with fatherhood after winning custody of his two boys from his ex-wife.
Even 30 years after Kramer vs. Kramer, I think its fair to say men are struggling as much as women to balance work and family. Technology has helped. Some employers are a tad more understanding than Mr. Kramer's boss when a dad may need to leave the office at 5 p.m. to take his kid to soccer practice but is willing to put in a few more hours after his kid goes to bed.
What I found fascinating was a piece in Working Mother, which devoted its June edition to dads. It says dads believe taking time off with the kids is a given. "Dads just matter of factly take the time they need and make sure they get their work done," said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family who spearheaded The New Dad, a study of 900 working fathers. Career coach Caroline Ceniza Levine agrees "If dads need to be out of the office for a school event, they don't feel guilty or defend their choice: they're just out for an appointment."
Many Father's Day articles centered around the new trend toward at-home dads. A study from Harrington's center, called The New Dad: Right at Home, shows married couples are making pragmatic decisions about who should stay home with the kids and sometimes, it's mom who commands the higher salary and greater earning potential so dad becomes the at-home parent.
I found examples of this in South Florida and wrote about it in The Miami Herald over the weekend. Fox News also reported on the trend with a headline that read: Mr. Mom Era: Stay-at-home dads doubled over last decade.
I was extremely touched by a piece in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on fathers who struggle with their child's autism diagnosis but found ways to embrace special needs parenting.
Clearly, the conversation about work life balance and family friendly employers has focused more on the working mother than the working father. I think that's changing but we still have lots of room for improvement. Watch the clip below on Mr. Mom and you tell me if you think times have changed.