Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Does fortune favour the working father?

Our mental model of "conflict" often compels us to gravitate towards that tricky stuff that occurs between two individuals. However, just as stressful and mentally tough can be the goal conflict or values conflict we experience when two or more of the big priorities we have in life are at odds (or at war!) with each other. 

There is a growing awareness of the critical impact of father figures in the raising of children. Moreover, more fathers than ever before want to take an active role in parenting and while they may work outside the home full time it has dawned on them that parenting can't be squeezed into the gaps as a very part-time role either.

We all know the law plays catch-up to the hearts and minds of society. Any legislative or policy change that legitimises and enables better work-life balance for fathers is to be applauded. I believe the shift in focus from the gender-based Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act to the Workplace Equality Act is welcome and important. But, for any equity of outcomes to really occur, organisations, or specifically the people who run them, must be willing to enable better work-life balance for working men too.

This striving for balance will only grow in urgency and focus. Companies hospitable to these emerging cultural norms will have competitive advantage.
I have coached senior, guilt-ridden, remorseful and fretful men who have made a career of being absent during the child rearing years. Of course there will always be some happy to walk in the door, just in time to kiss kids good night but they will often end up paying the price in estrangement from partners and/or their children.
Increasingly, the economic argument of women who earn more than their male partners and/or enjoy vibrant and rewarding careers will also stimulate demand for family friendlies for men.

Providing career women don't come home at the end of a long day and find an empty fridge, dinner conspicuous by its absence and a playroom carpet littered with toys, what's not to like? And who loses?