Let’s move forward to meet the ever- changing needs of today’s families.
Several months ago I was in contract negotiations with one of our larger employers. One of the company’s negotiators informed us that he would have to end at approximately 3:00 PM that day. After being pressed why, he finally admitted that his daughter played sports and that she had a game that evening that he had to attend. He also admitted that he was reluctant to tell us because he didn’t know how we would react.
Yet, he wasn’t the only man in the room who was facing work/family balance issues. One of the attorneys’ explained how, each month, he and his wife struggle to plan their children’s hectic after school schedules. Every day, they try their best to attend their children’s event or escort them to practice. Another man pointed out that due to the hospitalization of a family member, that he would not be available for one of the scheduled meetings.
I chuckled at first, as I thought of the numerous times I found myself in this position as I was raising my daughter, as well as the countless number of working women who came before and after me.
Juggling child care and family related issues can be stressful for both men and women and while I’m happy to experience this cultural shift among my male colleagues and associates, I have no doubt that these men are more involved with family responsibilities than previous generations of men. The American workplace remains stuck in the 1950’s. It’s still operating on the model of Dad as the family’s breadwinner and Mom staying at home to take care of the kids. Today women comprise over fifty percent of the workforce. Despite these changes, women are still viewed as the main child care provider and are therefore expected to take time away from paid work, causing them to receive less pay and overlooked for promotions no matter how hard they work or express an interest in moving up the ladder.
Traditional attitudes and stereotypes have also prevented some men from requesting time-off, flex time, and less traveling. Like women, these men fear not being taken seriously, overlooked for promotions, and not being considered “one of the boys”. It is important that everyone recognize that work conflicts are both women’s and men’s issues, and I urge all men to join or continue this conversation, both inside and outside of their workplace, so that we can move forward to meet the ever- changing needs of today’s families.