Working Dads Want Work-Life Balance, Too

Rachel Pomerance

At 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Andrew Hamer logged in remotely to the network at Monitor Deloitte - the management consulting firm where he works - and sent instructions to his team. He noted that he would arrive at the Toronto office around 10 or 10:30 that morning after taking his son to daycare. As the founder of "Deloitte Dads," a local group focused on navigating the demands of work and family life, Hamer says he's learning from colleagues and guest speakers about how to advance at work while remaining an active parent.

"I represent sort of a new generation of dads that more and more are taking the position of: 'I understand that there are tradeoffs in pursuing my career goals, but career versus father is not a tradeoff," says Hamer, a 30-year-old dad to two young children. "I will have both."

As fathers have become increasingly involved in parenting, they are grappling with some of the same struggles that have long challenged working mothers. Hamer is quick to pay tribute to the efforts of working moms, whom he considers partners in the pursuit of work-life balance. "We are just doing exactly what they've been doing for the better part of 30 years," he says.

Whether or not expectations of fathers have changed, attitudes among many fathers have. That owes largely to the influx of more educated and affluent working women - some who out-earn their male peers and spouses - which has in turn led to a rise of stay-at-home fathers.

While active fathering has been a trend for about a decade, men are becoming more comfortable expressing their "passions and enjoyment of being fathers," says Aaron Rochlen, a psychology professor who researches men and masculinity at The University of Texas at Austin. Fatherhood is becoming "kind of a cool part of men's identity," Rochlen says, citing new celebrity role models like Dwayne Wade, the Miami Heat star and single father who authored "A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball."

"I think that more and more men who are trying, like women have been, to balance work and family are being more vocal about their needs," Rochlen says.

[Read: Female Breadwinners and Love in a New Economy.]

According to a 2013 Pew Research report, entitled "Modern Parenthood," the roles of mothers and fathers are "converging" as each parent strives to meet the demands of work and family. The report drew from a Pew survey of American adults and data from the U.S. Department of Labor's American Time Use Survey to conclude that "there is no significant gap in attitudes between mothers and fathers: 56 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say juggling work and family life is difficult for them." While 23 percent of moms say they don't spend enough time with their children, 46 percent of the men shared that sentiment. Meanwhile, when asked about the ideal situation for young children, most adults believe its best for mom to stay at home, at least part of the time, the survey says.

However, studies have also found that the "hands-on father" is primarily a phenomenon of middle and upper classes. America has seen a growing gap between active fathers and absent ones that correlates strongly with the father's education, according to a 2011 Pew Research report, "A Tale of Two Fathers." In 1960, 11 percent of children in the U.S.lived apart from their dads; 50 years later, that group stood at 27 percent, the report stated, attributing the spike to declining marriage rates as well as increasing out-of-wedlock and multi-partner births. In the two years since the report has been issued, co-author Gretchen Livingston said, "I don't think anyone would expect significant change since then."

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The way dads view their roles also depends on their resources, as hands-on involvement is often directly related to income. Jeff Cookston, a psychology professor at San Francisco State University, co-authored a recent survey asking fathers what they do well as dads. Most men replied that they talk with their child or share a strong emotional connection. What they didn't say was breadwinning - except if they were poor. If income and time are slim, and a father takes any odd job he can to support his family, he'll find meaning in that contribution, Cookston says.

Similarly, the more professional and progressive the workplace, the more likely it is to consider workers' family concerns. At Hamer's office in Toronto, for example, it's been made clear to him that "this is not about face time," he says. "You do what you need to do to make your work and life work in concert."

[Read: How to Be a Better Example for Your Kids.]

If someone is out of the office managing family responsibilities from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., they're likely making up that time late at night, says Dorian Denburg, Atlanta-based attorney for AT&T and former president of the National Women Lawyers Association. "It's not like you're not going to get it done. You just have more control over getting it done." Denburg says she has noticed her male colleagues have become more outspoken about their parenting whereas, even five years ago, men would "slip out or sneak out" of work to tend to family obligations.

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If women's experience is any indication, men may have considerable challenges to navigate. "If we were to extrapolate from the literature on the 'superwoman' phenomenon, then we should expect that men with these expectations of themselves to be the breadwinner as well as an involved dad and partner [will] experience some gender role overload and stress with their ability to manage all of these aspects of what they think is important to their identity as men," says Christopher Liang, a psychology professor at Lehigh University. "These men will need to find a way to manage time so that they can take care of themselves professionally and personally, while also being a good dad and partner."

[Read: How to Make Love Last.]