The modern dad took center stage last week in anticipation of Father’s Day 2017 with a one-day summit in New York City on the role of fathers around the world and with the release of the latest annual “new dad report” from Boston College Center for Work & Family researchers.
The first-ever Dads + SocialGood conference on June 13 brought to Manhattan leading experts, public figures, activists and parents to discuss men, their families and how to support their livelihood. Father and family health as well as the ongoing battle to improve parental leave policies in the United States proved key topics.
Health and family
Leaders from UNICEF, the United Nations’ humanitarian program for children and families, discussed their Early Moments Matter campaign. The 6-month-old effort aims to increase awareness worldwide about the importance of parents being engaged in their child’s first 1,000 days of life because these early experiences greatly influence brain development.
During those first 1,000 days of life, the health of the dad also happens to be a key component to the quality family life. For example, humans only have so much cognitive bandwidth to make decisions and lack of sleep can adversely affect parental decision-making, noted panelist Christina Lee, principal scientist at health products manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, one of the conference sponsors. The lack of sleep also plays a role in our success work as well as parenting.
Family health is an important topic for many modern dads, presenters noted. Zack Yaksic, a father and founder of Alana’s Foundation, talked about his mission to make sure parents and children are vaccinated from the flu after he lost his daughter to the illness in 2003. Strains of flu are capable of causing the next world pandemic, an infectious disease specialist noted at the conference, but one of easiest, most effective ways to prevent that by educating families. about the importance of annual flu shots and good hygiene.
While the United States lags behind the world in offering parental leave, one bright spot has been Johnson & Johnson which two years ago extended up to 17 weeks (eight paid) of parental leave to its U.S. employees. The company announced at the Dads + SocialGood conference that it would expand that U.S. policy to its 90,000 employees in 65 countries worldwide.
In making the announcement, J&J Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Peter Fasolo asked dads to step up the work on the issue and for other companies to “join us.”
“I expect all dads to take advantage of this,” he said.
Fairleigh Dickinson University professor Scott J. Behson, author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, said during a presentation that parental leave needs to be a continuing conversation that expecting fathers need to have with their employers. Companies can and should use parental leave as a recruitment tool to bring in the best employees to their business, he said.
The Dads + SocialGood conference also focused on the positive things fathers are doing not just in their homes but on the global level. One panel discussion covered how fathers are handling the worldwide refugee crises. It lauded a 26-year-old Sudan man, for example, who took two kids who were fleeing the country under his wing, proving you do not have to be a dad to be a father.
Below are tapings of the Dads + SocialGood gathering presented by Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation and the online parenting site Fatherly.
The New Dad: The Career-Caregiving Conflict
Parental leave also played a role the Boston College Center for Work and Family’s eighth annual “state of the dad” report, released last week. The report centered on the work-life balance fathers face and their perceptions of and actions in child rearing.
The New Dad: The Career-Caregiving Conflict looked at three different generations of working dads — Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials — and broke down them further based on how they perceived and performed their caregiving role. It further discovered three different types of working fathers:
- Traditional — Those who feel their spouse/partner should do more caregiving
- Conflicted — Those who believe caregiving should be 50/50 but the spouse/partner actually does more it.
- Egalitarian — Those who believe caregiving should be 50/50 and maintain that split in real life..
The study took special notice of conflicted dads, noting that what they are “experiencing is exactly analogous to the dilemma that working women have faced for years, ‘Is it possible to have it all?’”
“In that sense, this is not a new phenomenon. The struggle to have a professional career while also being an engaged caregiver is one that many if not most mothers would easily relate to. What is new is this struggle is being amplified far more for today’s working dads,” the report concluded.
To help ease this conflict, businesses need to respect today’s expanding role of the father in the family, the report stated. This includes offering father (or parent) support groups, paid paternity leave and striving to work with dads on schedules and workload based on their role in the family. On the plus side, companies are slowly recognizing this and offer more working parent flexibility and help, understanding that benefits like parental leave benefits not only the father but the company as well.
Despite these conflicts, the study noted that even though more fathers have started taking on more at work they are also making greater efforts to balance it with family responsibilities. These dads who achieve a balanced work-life situation tend to be happier not only with their family but also with their work.