Last week I was privileged to be the keynote speaker at two workshops on “Work/Life Challenges – It’s Not Just for Women Anymore.” I spoke for about a half an hour on my experiences, the challenges my wife and I encounter, some of the strategies we use to meet those challenges, and the broader issues these experiences raise. We then had a panel of people from Northwestern weigh in with their own experiences and insights, then broadened the discussion to the room. People responded very favorably to my remarks, they definitely got the conversation moving in productive directions, and I learned a lot.
Here’s a video clip from the first half of the talk, as I transition from the opening setting out the questions the day to my own experiences.
Here’s the prepared text as I talk about working dad as a concept. I’m going to be doing more on this in the future.
I find that fathers often lack the vocabulary to talk about the challenges of work-life fit. For example, while we hear the phrase “working mom” all the time, I never hear the phrase, “working dad.” Google returns 2.4 million hits for working mom. For working dad – only 99,000. Fathers don’t have a neat, culturally-accepted, set of norms from which we can integrate the various aspects of our lives. On the other hand, there’s no expectation that working fathers will be especially good fathers or will be distracted from being good at their jobs because of their parental duties.
Working mothers face entirely the opposite, and more pernicious, problem. Men have trouble integrating identities, but mothers can’t dis-entangle them. Working moms are inundated with discussions about “having it all” and “leaning in,” yet having it all assumes that their identity as “mom” must always be present, an assumption that has long kept women from breaking through glass ceilings.
Meanwhile, people without children, especially in high-pressure work environments, feel required to work long hours, to take every late or weekend meeting or obligation, and often come to resent parents and their built-in excuses.
These distinct challenges cannot be met without frank and
open conversations, and it’s my hope to begin such a conversation today,
starting with my own story.
I am a working dad.