The debate over work-life balance frequently tends to focus on women and whether they can “have it all,” both a career and a family without compromising either.
Increasingly, that’s a question that men are asking themselves too. According to a piece by Sheelah Kolhatkar at Bloomberg Businessweek, men who want to spend serious time raising their children face a different set of issues, and don’t react the same way.
She focuses on a group called the “Deloitte Dads,” started by a few men in the company’s corporate strategy department. The conversation they have is similar to the one women have about reconciling ambition with a family. But there are a few differences, she writes:
“The only thing missing is the guilt and self-flagellation, which, if they were women, would be accumulating on the floor in puddles around their feet. You might call them ‘Alpha Dads,’ guys who are as serious about their parenting as they are about making partner. What they illustrate is that men might actually be better at handling women’s issues than women. They don’t believe in ‘balance.’ They believe in getting what they want, even if it’s time to yell at their 5-year-olds from the sidelines of a soccer game on a Wednesday afternoon.”
Rob Lanoue, a Deloitte partner with a wife who works full time, works from home one day a week. He manages it by being meticulous about his schedule and calender, by bluntly moving meetings to conference calls when he needs to, and by being very clear about when he’s leaving the office, and when he’ll get the work done.
Other men have moved to part-time setups, where they work 70% of the time or work two days a week from home.
Those sorts aggressive moves are the exception rather than the rule, despite the fact that men want to spend more time with their children, according to Pew data:
What’s holding men back? There’s a problem of perception — the expectation that men have to be the “provider” and that a preference for spending time parenting over time at the office is un-masculine.
There’s also the fact that workplaces haven’t evolved to deal with the fact that men are spending much more time with their children. 90-nine per cent of men surveyed for a recent Boston College survey said that their managers had the same or increased expectations of them following the birth of their most recent child.
When men are offered paternity leave, many don’t even take it. A recent study found that 88% of men offered paid paternity leave passed. Some take the leave, but spend time working on side projects or something that could advance their career.
Actions aren’t lining up with preferences, and a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that there’s little precedent or guidance for men who want to make some changes. That’s going to take work.
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