A New Era of Working Dads
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- Working dads want more time for caregiving.
- During the pandemic, many of them got that time working from home.
- Now they are looking for jobs that allow them to prioritize family going forward.
It's been a wild couple of years filled with political and civil unrest, a global pandemic, extended lockdowns, and a shell-shocked economy. So it's no surprise if you missed one of the quieter revolutions happening around us: Dads are deconstructing their approach to work and fatherhood.
Historically, fathers prioritized work that allowed them to provide financially and climb professionally, even if that meant spending long hours away from home. Today, dads still want financial stability and professional accomplishment –– but they also want time for caregiving.
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Ready to Start Your Journey?
The pandemic has given many dads a taste of what it's like to have it all. They're never going back.
Instead, dads are pursuing new careers that give them the freedom to father on their own terms. And they want you to know you can do the same.
A Growing Trend
Involved fathering has been trending ever since millennial men started having kids. A 2014 study of dads in managerial or professional positions showed that nearly all of them wanted "more flexibility to accommodate the shifting demands of parenting."
Even so, most men were not comfortable asking for family-friendly policies at work. "Discussing the stress of managing the balance between work and family remained taboo."
Caregiving fathers often feared harassment and mistreatment in the workplace for prioritizing family over career.
How the Pandemic Changed Things
The pandemic has been a nightmare for parents. School closures, remote education, and lack of childcare put heavy demands on moms and dads alike.
Thousands of people left the workforce or cut hours to care for their kids, with working parents nearly twice as likely to consider quitting as non-parents.
As a result, the old taboos that kept parents quiet at work began to break down as the boundaries between work and homelife blurred.
It's much harder to pretend that everything's perfectly fine, being a parent doesn't affect my work at all when your child interrupts an important Zoom call to demand a snack, a bandaid, or a detailed explanation of how the dinosaurs died.
Meanwhile, dads who were able to work from home discovered major upsides to spending more time with their families. For many, their marriages became a little more equitable, their mental health improved, and their relationships with their children grew stronger.
- 68% of fathers feel closer or much closer to their children since the pandemic started.
- 52% of fathers report their children are talking to them more often about "things that are important."
- 43% of fathers report discovering new shared interests with their kids.
- 54% of fathers report they are paying closer attention to their children's feelings.
Report: How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers' Relationships with Their Children
Many dads say they aren't willing to go back to the old way of working. Here are five things they want instead.
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.
"I have two kids, aged 1.5 and 3. I spent a lot of time with them over COVID-19. I have a really hard time leaving home now."
"Before the pandemic, it was easier to justify being away from them all the time. But missing milestones just isn't okay with me anymore."
"If I am going to go into a workplace, I need to know that my time away is well-spent and meaningful and a positive contribution to society. I need to know that my employer cares about my well-being and values the time and energy I'm putting into work, especially now that I understand how much my kids need to have me around."
–– Robert Puharic, highschool teacher and founder of www.teenlearner.com
The Freedom to Step Back
"As a dad of three daughters, it's important to model good behaviors. Especially when it comes to my relationship with my wife and with my job. But men are often expected to be the breadwinner. It can be awkward to take time off for childcare duties."
"A lot of unpaid labor is required to make a family run. My wife and I try to split that equitably. But during the pandemic, I felt she was taking on more of that labor than I was."
"Balancing two careers with three kids at home during the pandemic was too much for us, so I asked to go down to part-time."
"It was a scary conversation to have, but my supervisor was supportive. Now I can be fully present for my wife and kids, and I can also more fully devote myself to work when I'm on the clock."
–– Sam Zelinka, project leader, Building and Fire Sciences at US Forest Service and producer of Gov Worker FI
Permission to Put Work Second
"Everything in my life changed after the pandemic. A lot of stuff that was once of utmost importance to me took a backseat."
"Today, and most likely to the end of my days, my family's physical and mental wellbeing is my top priority. I want to be fully involved in parenting and be there for my child every step of the way."
"I'm pretty sure I'm not the only millennial dad who is willing to put his children in front of his career, especially after a life-changing event like COVID-19. I don't think it's crazy to want access to anything that allows me to have a fulfilling life outside the job, including teleworking, self-management, and a flexible schedule."
–– Stefan Smoulders, CEO and founder, Expandi
"Millennial dads want paternity leave and are much less likely to leave a job that offers it. Dads are no longer backing away from their duties as equal parents; they want to be primary caregivers. Dads wish for a year or six months leave to provide primary care, and they are ready to give up their work for their kids."
"They want their bosses to accept them as whole people –– not just as workers –– and free them to be better fathers."
–– Jonathan Tian, co-founder of Mobitrix
Remote Work Options
"Before having kids I was traveling 95% of the time for my job as an engineering consultant. I rarely saw my wife, and I knew it was an unsustainable life for the kind of dad I wanted to be. I started transitioning my career to become an entrepreneurial real estate investor."
"Now I am able to be that involved dad. I do the midnight feedings and the bath times and I read books to them. I wrestle their wiggles out, go on impromptu day trips, and just generally help shoulder the weight of raising good humans."
"A lot of millennial fathers found the transition to working from home difficult but then discovered it was worth it. It gave them greater empathy for their children's caretakers. Watching their kids grow and develop first-hand made a lot of dads want to continue working remotely. I'm glad more dads are finding that joy."
–– Kyle McCorkel, real estate investor, Safe Home Offer
Many fathers have had to make some difficult calculations this year in order to carve out work-life balance. In 2021, 61% of men who made a career change accepted a pay cut to do it. Father Mark Good, for example, walked away from a six-figure career to start his own business.
"It was worth it. Change requires a massive leap of faith," Good said. "But the possibility of creating a better life for your children gives you the hunger and determination you need to make your vision a success."
Feature Image: MilosBataveljic / E+ / Getty Images