Ask any woman about her greatest challenges and somewhere on that list is finding balance. Whether a woman works, or chooses to be a stay-at-home mom, she’s going to be juggling a long list of demands for her time, energy, skills and attention. Study after study has found that these multiple demands are often the hardest on working moms, who have been found to consistently rank below men and women without children in terms of levels of happiness and satisfaction. A key reason often cited for this disparity is the lower level of male participation in the work of running and maintaining a household.
This could be changing, according to a new study from Boston College’s Center for Work and Family. Researchers there say the “new” dad has a more equal role with the “new” mom, and is just as stressed by the challenges of multiple roles. The report found that while traditional dads equated being a good father with the role of being “the breadwinner,” dads today are more focused on “being there, being present, spending time and being accessible.”
The report, titled "The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood Within a Career Context," is a qualitative study of middle-income, first-time fathers that focuses on the area of men, careers, and fatherhood. The rising numbers of women in the workforce and employer downsizings have shifted men’s attitudes about parenting and workplace commitment, say the researchers.
Significant findings from the study include:
• Most fathers in the study confirmed that their self-image at work increased in a positive way after having children, with many fathers reporting that their new role as parents had enhanced their reputation, credibility and even career options.
• Although new fathers felt supported by their bosses regarding work-life flexibility, most did not arrange formal flexible work arrangements as new mothers sometimes do. Instead, these fathers used more informal, sometimes “stealth” approaches to balancing work and family issues.
• In many cases the men were not prepared for how much work it can be to take care of a young child.