Let’s face it, the two biggest decisions we make in our lives are if and who we marry and where we work. If our personal, family, and private life is out of order, it will spill into our work life, and not in a cute gossip and share pictures kind of way. The struggle is real, and if you worry that you will get fired the next time you have to leave work because your son’s fever returned, your mother’s pink eye won’t go away, or your husband has to have another back surgery — chances are you won’t be awarded Employee of the Month. President Obama says that Family Friendly workplaces should be the norm, a basic part of employment practice.
While women make up a large portion of caregivers, that trend is shifting, and men are finding themselves with needs to stay home with sick children or care for aging parents.
Dads are taking time off when children are born, working from home, and taking their children with them to the office. I had a tow truck operator pick me up with his seven-year-old son in the passenger seat. We are seeing this trend more and more in the professional world, further evidence of the shift in the role of the working dad. More working moms, more divorced families with shared custody, and more two-dad families mean that men are now expected to be more than bread winners. Apparently, professional baseball players take their sons to work so often, that many major league teams including the Red Sox and the White Sox created rules limiting kids’ access to meetings, locker rooms, and playing areas.
Negotiating the work/life balance is a challenge parents know well. Thankfully, the emergence of family-friendly workplace policies have helped ease the burden on parents and caregivers. These policies aim to maintain employee productivity and job satisfaction. Workers who feel supported will, in turn, reward their employer with hard work and dedication. Everybody wins.
This all sounds good in theory and looks good on paper, but how does it work in practice? I was lucky to work for a small non-profit when my daughter was a baby. My family-friendly work place allowed me to spend much of my time working with my child underfoot or at the breast. I appreciated the ability to be available to my child.
Like anything, there’s a time and a place for everything. Employers need to trust their employees to know when to bring their children to work — and when not. Granted, some jobs can never accommodate kids. A security guard can’t take her toddler to overnight detail, and I’m not sure how I would react if the server taking my order had an infant on her hip — even when I took nearly every phone call that way from 2008 – 2010.
All working parents deserve the support I had, whether through family leave, job share, or the ability to bring your child to work. However, nine out of 10 workers lack employer-sponsored paid family medical leave. This means that when their families need them most, too many fathers have to choose between caring for their newborns and paying the bills.
Despite the importance of this issue for working parents, the North Carolina General Assembly has refused to consider legislation providing moms and dads with paid family medical leave. It’s time for legislators to stop paying lip service to families on Father’s Day and instead provide them with the support they need.
Sometimes, the best option is to take a leave from work and focus on family. Ideally an employee could benefit from a paid or at least protected leave with assurances that they have a job to come back to. We need more jobs that offer the flexibility and freedom to share a desk or telecommute to allow time to take that family member to doctor appointments.
We need these benefits for all working families as another example of equality in the workplace. Just as we need to continue to insist that women receive equal pay, we need to demand that men and dads have the same access to opportunities to support their family in times of stress and need. That’s what dad’s do, after all; they fix things. As you celebrate Father’s Day with the dads in your life, remember that we’re all in this together.