By Anja van den Berg
The Covid-19 pandemic reignited a conversation that started decades ago: fathers are increasingly appreciating the value of participating in everyday work caring for, educating, and raising their children.
Psychological research across families from all ethnic backgrounds suggests that fathers’ affection and increased family involvement help to promote children’s social and emotional development.
How can fathers step up?
Eve Rodsky, the author of Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live), tells us how:
- Acknowledge clichéd (and outdated) gender roles
While research shows that most fathers believe they’re sharing equitably in domestic tasks, evidence, unfortunately, shows that they’re not. Rodsky says dads should initiate an honest conversation with their partners about who does what, and how much time each task takes.
She underlines the biggest hurdles to these types of conversations. Women often avoid initiating the topic out of fear of being rejected, dismissed, or misunderstood.
Rodsky says that the conversation should focus on each partner having a set of domestic responsibilities, starting from conception to planning through to execution. Discuss and agree in advance on the value of each task.
“Doing the time-intensive housework and childcare traditionally shouldered by women shouldn’t be a life sentence for one person or determined by a gender role,” she underlines.
- Speak up at work
Rodsky continues by saying that managers shouldn’t just assume that fathers have a stay-at-home partner. Many fathers have full-time working partners or are single parents. Unfortunately, some bosses still apply an obsolete ideal-worker norm that assumes modern fathers don’t have family responsibilities. This attitude pressures dads into prioritising work at all costs and neglecting their home life.
Rodsky recommends that dads build a coalition of fathers within the organisation to create consensus and speak with a collective voice. Speak to Human Resources, if necessary, to understand your company’s policies in setting boundaries and expectations at work.
- Be the role model for your colleagues
If you’re in a position of leadership, recognise that your actions impact others. When you commend people who work late nights, long hours, and weekends, you’re sending a clear message about what you expect. Instead, advocate for flexible work arrangements as well as parental and family leave. Don’t hide your parenting priorities, responsibilities, and commitments. Rather, when taking time off for them, make a point of announcing it as a way of regularising the behaviour. Support options for affordable access to childcare and be a vocal supporter in your company’s efforts to find feasible solutions that work for dads and moms.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/11/dads-commit-to-your-family-at-home-and-at-work
Men Engage Alliance: http://menengage.org/resources/role-fathers-south-africa/
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/changing-father