Dads struggle with the parenting too -®
Dads struggle with the parenting juggle too

And younger male execs are taking a stand

An article in the Australian Financial Review recently highlighted the fact that while most emphasis is put on the daily parenting vs work struggle of mums, dads find it just as hard.

The AFR reported that Max Schireson from US database company MongoDB was stepping down from his role as CEO for "family reasons". He will continue with the company in a more family-friendly vice-chairman position.

And when he said "for family reasons", that's just what he meant. In a blog he wrote:

"During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun. Perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery". "I have an amazing wife who also has an important career. She is a doctor and professor at Stanford where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high-risk obstetricians and conducts research on prematurity, surgical techniques and other topics.

"She is a fantastic mum, brilliant, beautiful and infinitely patient with me. I love her and I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience."

In our recent survey we asked whether companies were more or less flexible and accommodating with dads. The answer if of course much less.

Men are expected to be the primary breadwinners (when in actual fact increasingly they are not). They are expected to put in the long hours in the office and let "the wife" take the lion's share of the parenting responsibilities. They are frowned upon when they ask for time off to be with the kids or come in late due to a child care crisis or if they need to stay at home with a sick child. They are frowned upon if they leave early to pick up the kids.

This is quite ridiculous in a time where most families have both parents working at least part of the time. Among mothers with children younger than 18, more than 65 per cent are in the workforce.

Many men and their families are of course very lucky in that they have understanding and supportive, family friendly employers. My partner's company for example, is more than happy for him to leave early on a Friday to pick up the kids. He puts in the hours at the beginning of the day and he gets great results for them. So why not? They allow him to take his leave during the school holidays. These holidays are of course within his very generous holiday allowance, they're not unpaid or extra, but even so, his company is incredibly understanding and supporting of him as a parent.

Sadly this doesn't go for a lot of companies.

The AFR said that in interviews conducted by The University of Queensland Business School with 31 female and 30 male Australian chief executives, "the wives of all the men stayed home while their children were in primary school and early high school".

The University of Queensland Business School research discovered all but three of the male chief executives had stay-at-home mothers while growing up.

But times they are a-changing. Younger male executives are starting to redress the balance and find their voice as parents too. They are changing the way their companies are structured to offer a more parenting friendly workplace for both mums and dads.

US-based software company ThoughtWorks, for example apparently, according to an article in BRW, split its global CEO role among four people in different regions when its founder, Roy Singham, stepped back to (again) spend more time with his family. Last year, one of the newly appointed leaders said this arrangement meant he could commit to spending quality time at home.

This is ground-breaking stuff for men really, despite the fact that for women, "job share" has been a reasonably common (though perhaps not common enough) working arrangement for years.

Paid Parenting Leave now includes fathers and this has started to make the important role of dads more acceptable to businesses. And while some companies still remain firmly locked into a 1950s view of the dad at work, mum at home scenario, innovative, younger companies and their staff are starting to lead the way in terms of recognising the role of the father and the fact that in the dual –income family reality of today, everyone must pull their weight equally. And both mums and dads deserve to spend their time with their children and to not miss out on family time.

MongoDB's Schireson said, in his final comment on the blog, that female chief executives are often asked how they balance work and family: "As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO." It is time we started asking the question.

Bravo and let's hope more companies and their boards of directors start placing more importance on the role and happiness of the fathers they employ.
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