Myths about today’s dads are hurting women just as much as men.
The false stereotypes of the lazy, uninvolved father and the buffoon who can’t handle a baby are prevalent — and many people, sadly, believe them. In my new book "All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Business Alike — and How We Can Fix It Together," I discuss how wrong and damaging these are.
These myths fuel backward laws and policies that hold back women in the workplace (like the paternity leave policy I successfully challenged.) They stigmatize men who do caregiving, making it harder for committed dads to succeed at work. They hurt kids by keeping parents away, even in the initial weeks of life. And they hurt businesses, slowing down the entire economy.
Here are 10 things everyone should know about working dads:
1. They’re "All In" parents.
Dads don’t come home from work and kick their feet up, leaving moms to do it all. They spend an average of three hours a day with the kids, caring for them. Virtually all dads who live with their kids bathe and dress them, eat with them, help them with homework and speak with them about their day at least several days a week, if not every day.
2. They’re working equally hard as moms on behalf of their families.
Men and women put in equal hours when you combine paid work, childcare, and household chores. A study that claimed men get more “leisure time” was based on a misreading of data. Equally bad was an article that falsely claimed a global study found “women lazier than men.” You can read all about it in the book’s introduction, here.
3. They’re battling work-life conflict.
Working dads want more time with their families. More than three-quarters feel they don’t get enough time with new children. They’re suffering from the same work-life conflict as women — even more so, according to one study.
4. Very few get paid paternity leave.
While just over half of employers offer some paid maternity leave, only 14% offer any paid paternity leave. And it’s getting worse — the length of leave offered to new dads is going down. The U.S. is an outlier in the world as the only developed economy with no paid maternity leave. And many countries have mandatory paternity leave. Our structures are outdated, based on a 1950s mentality that says women should stay home while men make all the money.
5. They get punished at work for caregiving at home.
Men who take time off to care for their children sometimes get demoted or even fired when they return to work. In "All In," I write about a man whose boss rebuked him for taking off a couple of days after his daughter was born in an emergency. (That boss happened to be a pregnant woman.) Another boss refused an employee the family leave time he was legally entitled to, explaining that women should do the caregiving unless they are “in a coma or dead.” These stigmas push men not to take the paternity leave they are offered, even when it’s paid — thereby taking choices away from men and women.
6. Top executives are caught in a time warp.
Only a minority of working dads don’t make time with their families a top priority. But these men get rewarded in the workplace, where stereotypes still reign. So they work their way up the ranks and control the policies and culture. They may have no ill intent, but are out of touch with what life is like for most families. A Harvard study found the vast majority of top executives are men who admit not making their families a priority. They see work-family conflicts as primarily a “women’s problem.”
7. Everything you’ve heard about their sex lives is wrong.
A New York Times Magazine cover story suggested that men who do traditionally “female” chores like laundry have less sex because their wives are turned off by it (in an interview for my book, Sheryl Sandberg, author of "Lean In," slammed that “terrible article.”) Both the Times story and articles responding to it cited old data from the 1990s. For "All In," I discovered new research and commissioned a study. We can now put the myth, ahem, to bed: No, men who clean the sheets do not report having less fun between them.
8. Black dads are doing best of all.
Most black fathers live with their kids and are the most involved of all. A CDC researcher says the study that discovered this fact marks “the debunking of the black-fathers-being-absent myth.” Still, the fatherlessness crisis is particularly acute in the black community. While most black dads live with their kids, most black kids don’t live with their fathers. In the book, I explain this.
9. There are way more stay-at-home dads than you think.
Most stay-at-home dads also do some paid work (from home, often while the kids are sleeping). That’s why many reports about the number of stay-at-home dads in America are wrong. They only looked at dads who don’t bring in income. The best estimate of stay-at-home dads is about 1.8 million. And one in five dads with working wives are primary caregivers to their preschool-aged children.
10. We’re ready to change the system.
After word broke of my legal battle, the hotline at the Center for WorkLife Law started “getting lots of calls from men in Josh Levs’ situation,” director Joan Williams told Salon. "All In" is about this growing movement. Women and men can join together to stand up against the outdated laws, policies, and stigmas holding all of us back. Some prominent figures including actress Emma Watson (of “Harry Potter” fame) are calling on men to join these conversations. Today’s dads are ready to do so, in a big way.