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Fathers finding work-life balance increasingly stressful.

Posted by: Tom Morris


The traditional roles of father as “breadwinner” and mother as “primary caregiver” have been slowly changing over the past few decades and the number of stay at home fathers has doubled since the 1990s. We often hear a lot around creating a work-life balance for mothers, but we don’t tend to hear as much about working fathers.

Fathers, especially those of the millennial generation are taking a much more active role in the rearing of their children and according to the recent 2017 Modern Families Index, more than half would be happy to be demoted into a less stressful job in order to be better fathers. In the report, a third of fathers said that they regularly felt burnt out and struggled to juggle work and family life just as much as mothers. However, they felt that they were less able to talk about these issues than women.

This could be down to the fact that these kinds of issues for women have been well documented and it is considered more socially acceptable for women to discuss their work-life balance because they are still seen as the typical care givers, regardless of career aspirations. Plus, women tend to share problems and if the issue is flagged up by others, women then expect these scenarios and feel that they can talk about them.

With modern life changing the way in which we work, employers need to design employment in a way that suits both men and women to have a good work-life fit, otherwise they risk losing out on talent of future generations.

In the index 15% of millennial mums and 19% of millennial dads felt that work-life balance was hard to achieve; but both parents reported a some level of unhappiness with their work life balance. Men were twice as likely to consider flexible working as having a negative impact on their career than the mothers in the research.

Deemed the “fatherhood forfeit” these dads felt managers gave less workplace support and flexibility to them than working mothers and that there was a stigma against working fathers. With this in mind, organisations need to start focusing on output and results rather than time spent at a desk. In the survey one fifth of fathers said that their employer was unsympathetic about childcare and expected no disruption to work, while 44% of fathers had lied to their employer about family-related responsibilities that “get in the way” of work.

This change in stereotypical roles can only be a positive thing for mothers, fathers and their children; however government legislation and employment practices are not keeping pace with these evolving trends within the home and workplace.

Shared parental leave was recently implemented by the government but it is far from a suitable solution as the majority of working fathers do not meet the criteria, and in essence it acts like a transferable maternity leave.

Instead, an extension of paternity leave with proper pay will help send the right message about supporting working fathers as well as recognising the demands on and the wishes of modern parents.

In turn, this will also help ease the “motherhood penalty” that affects so many women in their careers and lowers the risk of creating a “fatherhood penalty” where fathers pursue lower level careers with reduced earnings.

The report indicates a seismic change in workforce mentality and the importance of the right work-life balance to younger generations. With more men and women alike choosing not to conform to the traditional Monday – Friday, nine to five working days, organisations need to be changing how they present careers right from day one.

As family life becomes more and more equal, with parents sharing both the financial and child-rearing burdens, the issue of a work-life balance for fathers needs to be recognised as a modern day issue.

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