When my daughter was born in July of 2015, my whole world changed. I am not just talking about the late night diaper changes or how I became an expert at swaddling. Work-life balance took on an entirely new meaning. I had to find a way to balance my three roles: employee, father, and husband. While I did not officially receive paternity leave (I had just started at the organization) my then-employer allowed me to use one week of PTO and allowed me to adjust my schedule using flextime so I could be home sooner to help my wife with our newborn child. This is an attractive alternative for companies to consider, especially if they lack the resources to offer the four months of paid parental leave that Facebook offers.
According to Pew Research Center, 66% of American couples with children under the age of 18 are dual earners. While the concepts of paternity leave and flextime are newer topics in contemporary discourse, countless scientific reports suggest that it is an important and relevant topic for employers to consider.
Time to Flex
Men in the workforce have increased their use of flexible work schedules significantly over the last few years. Indeed, one report by the Working Mother Research Institute found that 77% of men use flextime and feel comfortable doing so. Because of this, flextime is no longer viewed as only a "working mother's issue." Instead, flextime is now a common work benefit used by employers to help in employee retention and satisfaction. The Working Mother report also revealed, "The majority of men who flex say it improves their productivity (85 percent), morale (84 percent), loyalty (82 percent), and relationships with co-workers (77 percent), team communications (81 percent) and overall job satisfaction (86 percent)."
Today's fathers are motivated to spend more time with their children than their parents spent with them. While 46% of today's dads report spending at least as much time with their kids, 48% of fathers believe they can still do better. This could be a contributing factor to the growing trend of fathers choosing to become stay-at-home dads. Of the approximate 2 million stay-at-home dads, 21% report that their desire to care for home and family was the driving factor, which is nearly four times the amount that said the same in 1989.
Benefits of Being Present
Studies have indicated a direct connection between child development and the time a father spends with his children. In 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services - Administration for Children and Families found that children who spent quality time with their fathers had higher IQs, better social and physical health, and were able to handle stressful situations better than children who spent less time with their fathers. They specifically found that the early years of a child's life matter the most, the study suggests "Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness."
Childcare participation will inevitably vary from person to person, but for me, I wanted to be as much of a part of my child's life as my wife, and this includes being present for events that are typically seen as being handled by the mother. This has been a growing trend over the past few decades, with more fathers (58 percent) viewing their role as a parent as a critical part of their identity.
I have been present for nearly every one of my daughter's monthly checkups, dentist appointments, and am always home in time for dinner and bedtime. All of this has only been possible because of the support I have received from my employer, and the trust they have placed in me to do my job well, whether in the office or at home.
Communicate and Define Expectations
An alternative working schedule is perfect or without complications. Both men and women who use flexible work schedules report that they believe their employers look down upon them or view them as less serious about their careers as those who work during traditional office hours. Additionally, while eight in 10 male managers believe that employers should offer flextime, 39% say they find managing these workers more difficult. Communication between managers and staff is of particular importance to ensure that flextime employees have clear job performance goals and availability expectations.
As organizations explore new ways to retain employees and attract new talent in competitive markets, organizations that recognize that both parents want to be involved in raising their child and create programs and a culture that will value those goals will have a distinct advantage.