Dads in a dilemma

Mar 28 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Despite all the talk of better work-life balance, two-fifths of British men say that they still work for organisations without family friendly facilities or practices. And a third feel that work seriously interferes with their private lives.

"Fathers and Sons", a new survey by Management Today in association with The Work Foundation and BT, suggests that modern British men are in a fix. The vast majority (93 per cent) say that they get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from work that two fifths (40 per cent) would not trade for more time with their family.

But nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) also claim to attach more importance to work-life balance compared to their fathers, and six out of ten feel under more pressure from work than their Dads ever did.

According to Matthew Gwyther, editor of Management Today, dads are in a dilemma. "They understand the importance of spending time with their families and want to contribute on the domestic front," he says. "But at the same time men still derive an immense amount of satisfaction from their jobs and in quite a traditional way continue to define their sense of accomplishment through their work." The survey, reveals a picture of British men striving to be different from their dads in their approach to home and family, which leaves many of them living with a sense of guilt. Nearly two-thirds say they are more likely to feel guilty about neglecting domestic duties than their dads did and 24 per cent feel they have neglected their kids recently.

Stephen Bevan, deputy director of research at The Work Foundation carried out the research. He says: "Many of these fathers see being a good provider as an important part of being a good parent, but canít always reconcile the two roles. They rank successful parenting at the top of their list of goals, but regularly work at weekends. They look for work-life balance, but large numbers find themselves working over Christmas. They are largely in control of their working patterns, but still canít quite find time to put work to one side and get to the school play."

Nearly a third (30 per cent) of respondents agree that work seriously interferes with their private life and two-fifths (41 per cent) work for organisations without family friendly facilities or practices, Despite this 29 per cent of men feel that the changes to employment legislation due to come into effect on April 6th, go too far.

For the first time fathers will have a legal entitlement to paternity leave and those with children under six the right to ask their employer for flexible work options. There was a distinct difference in attitude towards the legislation depending on the age of the respondents. More than half (53 per cent) of those under 35 feel the policies do not go far enough, with those that are married with children most likely to agree with this. In contrast, 30 per cent of men over 55 think that policies have gone too far.

"The legislation brings fatherhood and the role of men in childcare under the microscope, so itís revealing that so many men are resistant to it. With older men in particular, one canít help but think that there is an element of 'we coped, why canít you?'", comments Gwyther.

Bevan adds: "Itís important to recognise that these are men who have an enormous influence on their workplaces. Next monthís legislation giving parents the right to family friendly working is a step in the right direction, but it is clear that there is still some way to go before attitudes catch up."

The survey identified five different types of working fathers:

21st Century Dad
These are the rare fathers that put their childrenís happiness above their career. They consider themselves very different to their fathers, who traditionally left childcare up to Mum. 21st Century Dad doesnít think that having family commitments is a disadvantage to his career, and would in fact be happy to support a working wife and while he stays at home with the kids.

Stepdad is acutely aware of the need to balance life outside of work with career commitments. He is likely to have one (or two) relationships behind him and sees family as important as work.

Happy Dad
Happy Dad loves being a Dad. Having a child in his life has increased his enjoyment of work and life. He is still ambitious, but will not put ambition before his children.

Juggler Dad
In contrast, Juggler Dad is unhappy with his lot. He is committed to work, but at the expense of time with his family. His over-riding emotion is one of guilt, not being there for his family and children, but unable to break the cycle

Carer Dad
Carer Dad is dealing with the caring demands of children and elderly parents. He is the classic sandwich generation trap, with demanding home and work responsibilities. Work can sometimes feel like a haven from home, but this is tinged with a feeling that he is neglecting his family.