The new fatherhood dilemma: Surviving 'Daddy guilt'
Disappoint your boss or disappoint your child? It’s a painful dilemma working women have had to confront for decades, but now men are discovering a similar work-life balance conundrum.
They're changing diapers and attending soccer games, so it's no surprise that in a recent Redbook poll, 40 percent of moms described their husbands as "extremely" hands-on fathers, and 72 percent said their husbands were striving to be better dads than their fathers were -- and succeeding.
But the magazine also found many men were torn between obligations to their job and their desire to be there for their kids.
Redbook dubbed the phenomenon “The New Daddy Guilt,” describing it this way: “He works! He nurtures! He's exhausted. But today's working dads still don't feel they're doing enough, well enough. Sound familiar, moms?” (It should: In a 2011 TODAY Moms and Parenting.com survey, 1 in 5 moms said she’d choose a more flexible career if she could have a “do-over.")
“Sixty percent of men say they feel major conflict between work and family,” Jill Herzig, the editor-in-chief of Redbook, told the TODAY anchors.
“The average amount of time that a man works is 47 hours a week. So if he also wants to be a really meaningful part of his children’s lives and be there for those milestones and those daily events, there’s going to be a terrible push-pull.”
There are ways to ease “Daddy guilt” and make the most of family time, said John Duffy, a psychologist and parenting expert.
First, dads should keep up to date with their kids’ schedules, Duffy advised. Many fathers don’t know what activities are on their children’s calendar only to find out at the 11th hour that there’s a recital that night, for example. It’s not something that was on their radar, so they can’t make it.
Second, men should check in with their wives about what kind of a job they’re doing as a dad, Duffy said. Sometimes a father may think, “I changed a diaper today and I did a little laundry, that seems about half,” but it may not be enough, he added.
The most important message to dads: Find your moments and make the best of them.
“You’ve got to protect time to be with your kids. You’re not getting to get all the moments you want, so you need to take the moments you get: be fully present, turn the phone off, leave work at home,” Duffy said.
Meanwhile, there are signs that many employers are becoming more aware of both parents’ needs to get some flex time and telecommuting opportunities.
“Technology is really helping with this and I think offices are realizing that you can work from home very effectively,” Herzig said.
“But I would say it’s not moving fast enough and both men and women have to really argue for and prove that they can be there doing their job even if they are also on the way to a soccer match or doing other things that their parenting responsibilities require.”