(This post was originally printed at The Huffington Post.)
My bet is that the dads who are going to make or break involved fatherhood are: working dads.
Why working dads? The media doesn’t hark much on them. They are not who we necessarily associate with the phrase “involved dad.” For all intents and purposes this vast majority of dads are mostly invisible, going about their business, working hard to support their families as they’ve been brought up to do. So, how can these guys be pushing the envelope when it comes to fatherhood? Because something is fundamentally changing them as a group — something that will ultimately reshape the role of fatherhood and parenting in general if it’s allowed to grow. Let me explain.
After speaking with dozens of working dads and fatherhood experts, one thing is blazingly clear: working dads of today are feeling the stress of work/family balance in ways that previous generations never experienced. I think this is being caused by a number of things.
First, there’s been a shift in how we see fatherhood in general. As opposed to 30 years ago, it’s now mostly frowned upon to be a father who refuses to change diapers or who won’t take a more active role in his kid’s lives. Second, these changes have been caused as a response to more women being in the workplace over the past 30 years. With a lot of moms working the same hours as their husbands, the expectations on dads to handle kids and housework have increased.
Third, a lot of dads do not want to be absent like their own fathers were to them. Lastly, one of the upshots of our current economic climate is that many more dads than moms have been laid off and so are taking on the role of primary childcare. The culmination of all of these things is that many of the new dads of today have been given a taste of how rewarding it can be to involve themselves at home.
But here’s the problem. While everyone seems to be extolling the blessings of being a more involved dad, the reality of the workplace is that people in our culture are working longer hours than they were only a few short years ago; and while many women have chosen to ‘opt out’ in order to spend time with their kids, most dads feel obligated to try to keep the pace at work. As a result, a lot of dads are feeling deeply troubled that, due to their intense work schedule, they are missing out on getting to know their kids better.
And here’s where we find the hidden heroes of the new fatherhood movement — the ones who I think are really going to change things. They are the dads who, in their own, often-quiet ways are stepping up to the plate to create more work/family balance for themselves. I’ve profiled a few of these dads in a recent documentary I made about fatherhood.
Fathers like Jay Wall, a pharmaceutical rep, who is able to manage his clients via blackberry with such success that he can spend surprising amounts of time out of the office. Or Marc Vachon, a Massachusetts dad who works a reduced schedule at an IT firm so he can equally share family duties with his wife, Amy. Or Jeffrey Eilender, an attorney in New York City and a divorced dad, who demanded a reduced schedule from his firm in order to achieve 50/50 custody of his kids. And then there were the countless other working dads I’ve spoken with who decided not to be in the film, simply because the work arrangements they’ve carved are so under the radar at their companies that they feared reprisals should their stories become known.
Which brings me to the real crux of the new fatherhood movement. While the media painted the Mommy Wars as working mothers pitted against homemaking moms, if there really is an equivalent notion as a “Daddy Wars” then it is more between the newer generation of dads and the men of previous generations who manage or employ them. It’s a conflict of how different generations perceive an employee’s commitment to one’s work versus one’s family and how this plays out will ultimately shape the role of fatherhood for years to come.
So, if you are (or happen to know) a heroic working dad, who is taking a stand for his family, and are feeling bold enough to share your story, now is the time to be heard. You can also write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in a future project.
Be a leader. Be heard. Let the rest of the working dads join you in your march and know that your children will thank you for it.
Dana H. Glazer is the award-winning director of the feature documentary, The Evolution of Dad. To learn more about the project, please visit www.evolutionofdad.com.