Balancing work and family life can be an exercise in spinning plates for dads as well as moms. If you don’t believe me, just ask Jennifer Garner.
The actress and mother of three recently noted that while she and actor/husband Ben Affleck were out promoting new movies every single interviewer asked her how she balances work and family while none of her husband’s interviewers asked him that same question. Same careers, same family yet the focus of Affleck’s interviews was instead on his co-stars’ breasts.
The term “shared family” is appropriate for families like theirs and mine, where two working parents have an equal role in caring for their children. Like Garner and Affleck, my wife and I have similar careers (albeit much lower paying ones) and a young family (two kids with a third due any day now). My wife works full-time yet still does an absolutely amazing job of raising our kids and maintaining our household. Her work-life balance is quite hectic, but satisfying.
Here is the thing: I carry the same load. Equally. In addition to my full-time job, I am a father. I get our children dressed for school, make lunches, do laundry, give baths and more. I don’t do all of it all of the time. I do all of it half of the time. Or three-quarters of the time. It depends on the day and the particular need of my family. We do not keep tally, we do what needs to be done. Work-life balance is no less a challenge for me than it is for my wife. However, it is rare that anyone considers my challenges, as a father, in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Partners like my wife, Jennifer Garner and a growing number of other really awesome moms are changing this conversation for the better. I know a great many dads who work extremely hard at their shared family, wanting to be full-time providers and caregivers. We want to be good husbands and fathers. We do not want to be afterthoughts relegated to a small set of “dad tasks.”
Yes, the tides have been changing, but it’s a slow turn. Partners who understand and support these challenges will help shape the conversation. This can hopefully lead to greater access to things like paternity leave and flexible work schedules for fathers along with better conditions for working mothers. too.
Perhaps the next time Ben Affleck, already known as a publicly active and involved dad, promotes a movie at least one reporter will table the question on his co-stars’ boobs and ask about his family. It’ll make the rest of us dads out there feel like we are not alone, and help validate the hard work we put in day in and day out.