I set up Wisdom For Working Mums to support women to combine their work and motherhood in a more successful and sustainable way, but every week I get asked the question “What about the working dads?”
And it’s something I thought long and hard about before setting up my business, as I’m conscious that being a working parent is tough. I decided to focus on mums as I believe that there are some unique challenges for us that I was ideally placed to help with, but it did leave me feeling that the dads were lacking support too.
That’s why I was over the moon when Hans-Son, the founder of DaddiLife, a platform for modern day fatherhood and a community of over 150,000 modern day dads, contacted me to talk about the amazing work work him and his team are doing to support working dads. Han-Son has written this article for Wisdom For Working Mums on a new normal for working families during Covid-19 discussing the challenges and opportunities for working dads.
Toward a new normal for working families
These are truly unprecedented times we’re living in, with families feeling the strain of managing homeschooling while trying to keep a semblance of work-life flowing too.
While it’s positive that more people are experiencing what remote working could be for themselves and their families way past Covid-19, there are significant challenges ahead. One of the biggest, and perhaps least talked about, is the one facing modern day dads specifically.
The modern day dad tension
The benefits of involved, active fathers are now much clearer, and for a modern day generation of dads the words ‘Dads don’t babysit, it’s called Parenting’ could not be more true. Whether it’s the initial dad bonding, reading, or even singing, there are increasing pools of science that are showcasing how involved fathers are important as part of thriving families as a whole. However when it comes to work, there is still a predominant expectation that dads should be ‘at work’ as their core focus. Dads at work is an area of life feels a lot slower in making the rapid strides needed.
We researched the issue of dads at work last year in our in our Millennial Dad at Work report and found a huge range of tensions for modern day fathers in trying to balance the new drivers in their family life, with their world of work.
- 45% of dads said they sometimes or often experience tension from their employer in trying to balance work and their family life.
- The same number said they often encounter tension from their colleagues in trying to balance their parental duties with their work.
- Nearly 2/3 (63%) had requested some form of flexible working since becoming a father, but only a tiny amount had their requests approved.
- 37% experienced tension regularly from their partners.
- 1/3 of dads had left their jobs since becoming a dad in order to find better parental balance (with another 1/3 ‘actively looking.’)
In many ways the microcosm of Covid-19 is a great backdrop to the change needed ahead as it challenges dads to look at the two dynamics of their lives that they are looking to drive more balance in – at home and at work.
The dads I hear from in the DaddiLife community have shared some amazing tips. These are mainly Covid inspired, but also have resonance to how increasingly dads are parenting.
- Re-frame the everyday: with the pressure of home-schooling meaning that parents are having to get more creative with the ways they home-school, a number of dads have reflected on how they have used the everyday routine as a way to actually teach too. One that stands out is around dads’ use of dinosaur toys. Where instead of just playing with them, dads have been using them to create specific number exercises by lining them up, and also using them to tell a story / language lesson too. Reframing the everyday is such an important skill to have.
- Tell them about your work: Building on point 1, can you include your children in your work somehow? It might be letting them see what you do, maybe asking them about it too? At its very best they might even be able to help! And at it’s minimum they can at least understand why you can’t be there all the time, even though you’re ‘at home.’
- Be realistic: I’ve heard a lot from the community recently about feeling guilty – that trying to manage with the kids at home on top of increasing demands from work just leaves dads (and I’m sure mums too) feeling like they’re failing at being a good parent. It’s important to be realistic. 200% is just not physically possible.
- Measure success: As a dad, how are you measuring success from a work stand point? Have you done something differently? Something you wouldn’t have been able to as well if you were in the office? It’s important we mark these successes more formally. No matter how small they might feel, it’s important to note it down. It’ll help for a future flexible working request too!
- Tell your team: Your colleagues I’m sure have some degree of empathy (particular the other parents), but how often have you assumed that your colleagues get what’s going on in your routine, only to then see urgent deadlines in the very next email? It’s important to really tell them what’s going on. Tell them you won’t be able to make that 3 hour workshop over Teams without the likelihood of some toddler interference for instance. Managing this in advance means people know what to expect, and how to best plan for those.
- Be realistic: Like in the ‘at home’ section, it’s important to be realistic with your work schedule. Do you need a slight change in working hours? What’s stopping you telling the management team? If this is a problem faced by others in the organisation, is there a need for a parental support group? We’ll only get through this time (and ultimately toward what we want in the future) if we can be real – with ourselves, our families, and the organisations we work for.
About the author
Han-Son is the founder of DaddiLife, a platform for modern day fatherhood and a community of over 150,000 modern day dads.