Words like empowerment and inclusion get thrown around a lot today. But do we really know what they mean? Do these principles in fact have any intrinsic value, or are they just the flavors of the week?
The problem with attributing value to ambiguous concepts like “empowerment” (which Daniel Pink defines as “a slightly more civilized form of control”) is that when you run into conflicts, there is no real standard by which to resolve those conflicts. This post-modern dilemma is playing itself out in a big, public way over at Time Warner, where CNN (a Time Warner company) journalist Joshua Levs has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge against his employer.
Joshua and his wife just welcomed their third child into the world, and when he went to his employer seeking the 10 weeks of paid leave that new parents get, he found out that all new parents except biological fathers are entitled to this time off. You read that right – every kind of new parent working for Time Warner is entitled to 10 weeks of paid leave, except biological fathers. Adoptive mothers and fathers, biological mothers, and all mothers and fathers whose children were born through surrogacy; they all get 10 weeks of paid leave. But if you are in Joshua’s shoes, where his own wife gave birth to his own child, he only gets two weeks.
Time Warner, in its efforts to be “inclusive,” and to “empower” new parents with a policy of “equality” has created a situation that exposes a much more serious problem – it is completely unfair. Moreover, in Joshua’s view, given his EEOC charge, it is discriminatory.
While we at NFI do not know all of the legal details about the EEOC charge, we can say that we agree with Joshua Levs. His company is clearly treating him unfairly. And from a broader “fatherhood perspective,” Time Warner’s actions are symptomatic of much a deeper cultural issue that has been plaguing our culture for decades, the devaluing of fatherhood and marriage.
It seems every group has a movement or a program behind it, except married, biological fathers. Guys like me, who have sacrificed much to get and stay married to the mothers of our children, seem to be the ones who get the least support in the public square. We are the “suckers” who seemingly made the mistake of setting aside our own interests by going home every night to our wife and children so that we can be there for them for life.
We hear it all the time at NFI, but one of the most common refrains I hear is that “you don’t have to be married to your children’s mother to be a good dad!” Well, sure; most of our community-based programs help unmarried fathers connect to their kids. But the reason every civilization across all of world history has created the institution of marriage is because it enables men to be the best dads they can be. Since when are we so comfortable with settling for second best when it comes to our children? Have we lowered our standards that much?
As for Mr. Levs’ situation, one can’t help but be befuddled by the hubris of Time Warner to create and then enforce such a policy. In Mr. Levs’ own words, in his public statement about the situation, he said, “The company gave no explanation in rejecting my request last week, saying only that it was ‘unable’ to grant it. That’s obviously false. Time Warner is able to, but chose not to. The moment it did that, this issue stopped being a possible oversight that the company could have resolved quietly. It became an active, deliberate decision to discriminate.”
I am at a loss to figure out why Time Warner would do this, other than to go back to our mass cultural confusion, where we value too many other things more highly than the importance of father involvement.
But that only explains part of it. Other fathers at Time Warner are not getting the same lousy treatment as Joshua. So, could something more sinister be at work here?
For one thing, Time Warner’s policy is not actually about child well being. In Joshua’s statement, he mentions that certain forms of discrimination are legal because they are directed at groups that are not “protected classes.” Apparently, children are not a protected class, because if improving child well being was the purpose of Time Warner’s policies, they would extend the most generous policies, or at least the same ones, to the types of parents who are most likely to have children -- biological parents. Despite “advances,” the vast majority of children are still brought into the world as a result of a man and woman having sex with each other. So, Time Warner’s “inclusive” policy only touches a small minority of new parents.
Furthermore, as I mentioned above, our culture has gone out of its way to devalue married fatherhood for decades. Time Warner’s actions sound like yet another attempt to move our culture away from tradition and towards some new way of doing things. I am not sure what that “new way” is, but decades of social science research indicate that it is probably a bad idea, because children living with their two, married, biological parents do better across every measure of child well being than children in any other family structure. Shouldn’t that, therefore, be the structure that we encourage and promote? Wouldn’t that be fair to our nation’s children?
But there is the problem! It is not fairness we actually care about. We care more about ethereal concepts like “inclusion” and “empowerment,” which change with our culture’s whims. It is not even child well being we really care about; it is making sure “protected classes” are kept happy.
We at NFI hope Joshua Levs, and all of the biological fathers at Time Warner, get what is coming to them, which is simply what every other type of parent gets. And, furthermore, we are hopeful that Joshua’s actions resonate throughout our culture so that fathers all over the country get the same truly fair treatment they deserve, and more importantly, that their children deserve.
The good news is that much of the response to Mr. Levs’ charge has been positive. You can help the cause simply by making supportive comments right here on this blog, on NFI’s Facebook page, or by visiting Mr. Levs’ Facebook or Twitter page and voicing your support for him.
The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
Have you ever marveled at the person who seems to get a ton of work done and still has time for family? You know, the person who seems to "have it all.” The person who excels at work and at home and who even has the time to volunteer for their favorite cause.
I’ve often struggled to balance work and family. That’s right. Even those of us dads who have dedicated their careers to family strengthening face the same challenges as any other dad. We have to toe a fine line of hypocrisy. I remember a day in 2007 when my oldest daughter, who was 12 at the time, was struggling emotionally. She was depressed. I returned home after a week-long trip speaking at a conference and training staff of organizations on how to help fathers be better dads. She started to cry after I walked in the door. We went into the backyard and talked for what seemed like a couple of hours. It took a while, but she finally revealed the source of her pain. It was me. I was traveling too much, and she missed me.
One of the consequences of being an involved dad is that when you’re not around as often, your children miss you. This was a time when I traveled a lot speaking at conferences and training facilitators on our programs and on how to build capacity to effectively serve fathers. I knew that it was hard on my children and my wife, but I didn’t know just how hard it was.
Fortunately, my daughter had the courage to tell me that I needed to be home more, and I listened. I asked her what she thought was a reasonable amount of time for me to be gone. I negotiated for a maximum number of travel days each month based on her input.
I’m known for being productive. Some people even tell me that I’m “extremely” productive. (I can only hope I’m just as effective.) I rise by 4:30 AM on the weekdays, work out for an hour to an hour and a half, start work by 6:00 AM, and usually get in a 10-hour day. That schedule allows me to care for myself, get a lot of work done, and still have time for family. I’m fortunate in that I work from home. I don’t have to struggle with long commutes that sap personal and family time. The biggest factor, however, in my ability to balance work and family is a flexible employer.
Working for a flexible employer is one of many tips for balancing work and family offered by Robert C. Pozen in Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. (Pozen is one of those people who is an answer to the question I posed at the start of this post. I pale in comparison.)
Here are 11 tips for balancing work and family, a combination of those offered by Pozen and offered in NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ program.
- Look for employers that provide flexibility on when and where you work, and that offer paid leave for childbirth and other life events.
- Commit every day to leaving work early enough to have dinner or spend time with your family.
- Be assertive to obtain more flexibility. Assure your boss that you will get work done even if you take an hour out of the day to take your child to the doctor.
- Show your family commitment at work by displaying things like family photos and your children’s artwork. These displays will show your co-workers and boss that you’re committed to family.
- Make career decisions as a family. When you have an opportunity to change jobs or move laterally or up in your company or organization, talk with mom and your children (if your children are old enough) about the new commitments that will come with the opportunity, especially if those commitments will affect family time.
- Keep family commitments as sacred as work commitments—even more so. Avoid missing a family commitment because something comes up at work. The more often you keep your family commitments, the more likely your co-workers and your boss will be to respect them.
- If you and mom both work outside the home and can’t reduce your office hours (e.g. to spend more time with the children), look to friends and family to help out (e.g. watch the children when they come home from school).
- When you are with your family, avoid all but the most critical interruptions from work. Most work issues can wait until the next day.
- If you must bring work home, create a separate time and place to do the work. Your mind needs to move from you as a professional to you as a family member.
- Create a daily block of time for family called “family prime time.” Turn off your mobile devices, computers, and keep work off-limits during this time.
- Create and sign a “family contract.” Have your children and mom sign it, too. Put in writing that you’ll balance success at work with success at home. Read this contract at the start of every week to remind you of your commitment.
Over the last four decades, men have had to give up their “territory” in the workplace to make room for women. Culturally, we’ve gone from Mad Men to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list. But has the same change happened at home? Have moms given up their “territory” to make rooms for dads?
While a definitive answer to such a complex question is hard to come by, we occasionally come across evidence that the answer is “not yet.” Take the incident outlined in this segment that aired yesterday on Good Morning America.
Can't see the video? Watch it here.
It is disappointing to see that some moms have such low expectations for fathers. Why is this the case? Certainly, dads have done their part in lowering our culture’s expectations of fatherhood (see data on father absence here). But another significant part of it comes down to a basic human emotion that was mentioned at the end of the GMA segment: jealousy.
I was not old enough during the 1970’s when the workplace started to transition from a man’s world to a more equal place, but I imagine that many men during that time felt jealous that the women in their lives were being seen as equally capable of doing what they had been doing at work for generations. Today, as men are starting to do the same things women do at home – like care for babies – many women are feeling jealous. After all, since time immemorial, moms have been seen as the “default” parent and nurturer of children. I think it is inevitable that some moms are going to feel a bit jealous that dads are taking on that role with aplomb.
However, given the economic realities of the day, moms and dads have to share responsibilities at both work and home. It is becoming less and less possible for one parent to work, one to stay at home, and for that to be a static situation for a family for an extended period of time. Families have to be fluid and respond to the economic environment, like the family depicted in the GMA segment, where the Google-employed mom was the one who continued working after the baby was born for reasons I imagine were related to her pay, flexibility, and workload.
The best news in all of this – we know from decades of research that kids do best when raised by both of their parents, and when dad is involved in providing for, nurturing, and guiding his children. So, moms should be celebrating the dads who are finding various ways to be involved in the lives of their children. I think many are, but as this segment shows, some moms are still jealously guarding their territory.
Do you know any moms who are jealously guarding their territory at home and in the playground? Let us know in the comments.
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“Being a man is a matter of age. Being a gentleman is a matter of choice.” —Edwin Louis Cole
Don't know what to get dad this year?
Writing as a father myself, my family doesn't usually know what to get me either. But it's my fault, because I don't typically have anything I want—until now!
Dads, you can review this list and actually have something you want. Heck, after seeing these ideas, you may have several ideas to hint about for the next few holidays!
Moms and families wanting something special for dad? Check out our list for ideas to make this Father's Day special. But most importanly, treat the dad in your life like the gentleman he is.
We have your go-to list of great gift ideas. How do we know? Well, we're pretty much dad experts—at least as it involves to gifts we would like to receive!
Here are a few ideas to get you started making this Father's Day special. Most of the gifts mentioned below can be engraved and/or personalized and can be found at Red Envelope Gifts for Dads.
I was sent the Leather Excursion Messenger Bag. I'll give you a review later—keep reading...
First, know that Red Envelope has every dad-gentleman in your life covered—whether he's:
As I mentioned above, I recieved the Leather Excursion Bag a couple of weeks ago. I'm finding it to be a great bag for daily use.
Excerpt from Red Envelope will make you want the bag: Inspired by wartime cavalry bags and map satchels, this everyday workhorse is crafted from the finest quality top-grain leather and develops a luxurious softness and patina over time. Pen, cell phone and wallet compartments keep the necessities in reach.
Allow me to share a few things that stood out about my experience with Red Envelope:
1. My gift was shipped very carefully and with a special, personalized letter.
2. The smell of leather! When I opend the box to my new bag, the lovely smell of leather filled my office. I still smell manly after walking around with my bag for the last couple of weeks.
3. The details and stitching are eye-catching.
4. The bag has plenty of storage for everyday use.
Some details on the bag:
- crafted from soft, full-grain leather
- antiqued bronze hardware
- interior includes pen holders, 2 pockets large enough for a cell phone and a wallet
- dust cover included
- may be personalized with up to three characters
- 50"L shoulder strap
- 16 1/2" x 5 1/2" x 12"H
Whether a bag is on your list or not—be sure you treat the dad in your life like the gentleman he is—for these special and personalized gift ideas and many more—find Red Envelope on Twitter
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
Disclosure: Red Envelope provided NFI with the bag and sponsored this post.
The mommy wars continue. Should today’s women dedicate themselves more to their careers so they can “catch up” to men – to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests – or should they dedicate themselves more to motherhood because their kids need them?
How about a third way?
I propose that if moms want to do better at both parenting and work, they have to “lean in” to fatherhood.
Yes, moms should do as much as they can to support the involvement of their children’s fathers in their children’s lives, because it will help them thrive at both home and in their careers.
Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement are mom’s perception of dad’s competence and the quality of their relationship with each other. In other words, moms can act as gatekeepers or gateways; they are largely responsible for either facilitating father involvement or holding it back.
When fatherhood is “held back” – when fathers are unable or unwilling to embrace the fullness of their roles – moms become disproportionately responsible for what is happening at home. And, logically, if mom is responsible for a disproportionate share of the tasks at home, it is going to be harder for her to dedicate herself at work as much as she may need to.
My own situation paints a picture. My wife and I both work full time, and my wife is fully supportive of my role as a dad. She lets me do things my way. I typically leave for work later than her and get home earlier than her, so I usually take our son to daycare and pick him up at the end of the day, I usually give him breakfast in the morning, and I usually cook dinner at night. He has Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to do what is needed to care for that complicated disease.
Because my wife trusts me to do these things with a level of competence, she is thriving in her career. When the daycare calls and there is an issue with our son, I usually take care of it, not because my wife is a bad mother, but because she is an hour away, and I am 5 minutes away. In other words, my wife rarely has to take off from work or leave work early to care for our son during the workday.
As an auditor who has to travel around the region quite a bit, if she was forced by circumstance (my absence) or choice (a belief that she parents better than me) to be the go-to parent for our son’s needs, her career would suffer. Neither her boss nor her clients would be able to count on her to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be there.
Furthermore, when she comes home from work, she doesn’t have to do all the housework and childcare by herself. We work together; she lets me contribute even though I do things differently. Thus, she is able to focus not just on “housekeeping,” but on being a mommy.
You may be thinking that moms obviously want help from dads. I think you are right, but it is part of human nature that we don’t always behave in a way that will get us what we really want. For example, mom wants dad to help at bath time, but vehemently criticizes him for using too much soap, so he is now reluctant to ever help at bath time again (this is a true story).
So, the key then is to help moms align their desires (more help from dad so she can thrive at home and work) with their behaviors (acting as gateways to father involvement rather than gatekeepers) so that moms, dads, and most importantly, kids, are getting what they need.
Well, NFI has “an app” for that. We just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support father involvement.
Based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using NFI’s signature fatherhood programs, the new materials will help mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children. Specifically, it will give moms the knowledge and skills they need to effectively communicate with the fathers of their children and to understand the critical role fathers play in children’s lives. Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms is the flagship curriculum anchoring this new initiative.
This is just another way that NFI is responding to what is happening in our culture with practical, timely solutions that move people from inspiration (something needs to be done!) to implementation (here is an actual program that we can start using today!).
Question: What do you think is the most difficult thing about parenting?
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