This is a post by Chris Brown, NFI's Executive Vice President.
Weve known for years now that the housework divide between dads and moms has decreased with dads doing more of the workload than ever. This development is good news because NFIs landmark national study on mothers attitudes about fathers and fathering called Mama Says
found that moms want dads to help out more around the house. But what do we know about the impact of dads doing more in this world of dual-income families who always seem to be multitasking and on the go?
While this closing of gap seems on the surface to be a great development that should have a positive impact on dads, moms, and kids, a recent study reported in the L.A. Times
suggests that this new picture of the dual-income American family isnt quite as rosy as the data suggest. This two-year study examined 500 working mom-dad families from 8 urban and suburban communities. Researchers found that dads and moms did an equal amount of paid and unpaid work but that moms did more multitasking at home than did dads. Moreover, moms experienced more stress than dads about their perceived lack of attention to their families this multitasking requires. Dads, in fact, received a psychological boost from their ability to handle home and work tasks (super dad) while moms felt guilty about the divided attention this kind of multitasking requires.
What should we make of this data, and how should dads and moms respond in these families? A closer look at the study suggests that moms and dads should multitask together (e.g. wash dishes, do the laundry, take the kids to the grocery store). Dads and moms tended to gravitate to different activities with their kidsa sort of divide and conquer strategy. Dads engaged in more focused, fun, interactive activities with their children while moms focused on more routine childcare tasks and doing more of them at the same time. But when moms and dads worked together around the house it reduced the stress for both parents. It seems that dads should take a step back and ask what more they can do around the home together with moms, right? The article suggests as much, but Im convinced the problem can't be resolved simply by dads and moms doing more work at home together, although that would certainly help.
Im convinced that working moms and dads need to reduce multitasking. A recent spate of research suggests that multitasking isnt all its cracked up to be. Weve come to believe that multitasking makes us more effective when, in fact, it makes us less effective. It divides and conquers families. Were much more effective and less stressed when we focus on doing one task at a time and doing it well whether at work or at home. Dads and moms cant be as present and engaged with their kids and with each other when they multitask. Dads must ask not what more they can do, but what less can they and mom can do individually, together, and with their children.
This is a guest post from Jeff Allanach, a newspaper editor in Maryland. Jeff is a married father of two children, and writes about fatherhood in his weekly column. You can follow Jeff on his Facebook page, Adventures in Fatherhood. Jeff contributes to The Father Factor today as part of The Thankful Campaign.
I stop the car on the driveway after a long day of work, and wait for the garage door to open. Tall grass stares at me from my front yard, and weeds sprout up around the bushes as though they were taunting my homeowners association. Both probably break whatever rules I agreed to live by when we bought the house, but I shrug. It just means a longer to-do list on Saturday, or maybe Sunday if the former gets away from me, which it usually does. Either way, I wont find time today. I might not even find time this weekend.
As the garage door opens, the light shines dimly on jigsaw that still needs its blade replaced a year after it broke. It just means one more thing to buy on my next trip to the hardware store, but then again, Ive made many similar trips since the blade broke and it still needs replaced. Maybe someday, but its not today. It might not even be this weekend.
I walk through the garage door, pass the cluttered living room and into the study only to place my laptop on the chair. My desk has no room for a computer between the stacks of magazines, assorted boxes, and other stacks of paper Ive yet to sort through. Its just one more chore to do, but I wont do it today. I probably wont even do it this weekend.
A novel that I need to revise sits behind the screen of my desktop computer, the one that has the beginnings of at least three other novels and assorted story ideas buried in its memory chips. I long to finish writing all those stories, but I wont do it today. I probably wont even finish them this weekend.
Its never today, and its never this weekend, at least not in the 10 years since I became a dad. And for that I am thankful.
The grass is long because Id rather spend my Saturday mornings this season watching my children, Celeste and Gavin, play in their basketball games. They look for me on the sidelines, and would notice if I wasnt there. Grass doesnt care if I cut it or not.
Weeds are sprouting up around the bushes because Gavin usually wants me to spend Saturday afternoons teaching him to ride a bike, or Celeste wants me to take her to the park, or its the only time I can take them to the pumpkin patch. Weeds dont care if I pull them or not.
I cant run up to the hardware store to buy a jigsaw blade on Sundays because of church in the morning, and the park or the library, or both, in the afternoon. The saw doesnt mind its missing blade, and I probably couldnt find the time to make sawdust anyway.
And I cant find the time to finish writing my novels because it means time alone at the computer, and time alone at the computer means less time with my children. The novels might never sell anyway, so why spend so much time crafting stories people may never read?
So this Thanksgiving season, I will give thanks for tall grass, sprouting weeds, a broken jigsaw, and unwritten stories. If I didnt have those things in my life, I would have less time with my children.
This is a guest post from Dr. Clarence Shuler. Dr Shuler is an author, marriage counselor, speaker and life & relationship coach. He is President/CEO of BLR: Building Lasting Relationships, a non-profit helping individuals and organizations develop mutually-beneficial relationships. Dr. Shuler and his wife Brenda have three college-aged daughters.
More than a few fathers and mothers gave me a warning when my three girls were young. Their warning was that as soon as my girls became teenagers that they wouldnt want to spend time with me. Their warning troubled me.
Unintentionally, I almost made their prediction come true. It hit me in two ways. First, while on our family vacation to Disney World, I realized that my girls were getting what was left over in my time. My girls deserved and needed my best, so I changed my priority to focus on my girls after their mother and then my job.
Secondly, as a self-employed struggling new writer, I kept the door of my home office closed. My little girls love me, so they wouldnt even knock on the door because they didnt want to disturb me. Maybe it was the grace of God that had me move my office to the basement and keep my office door open.
Like clockwork, with an open door, all my girls from elementary school through high school as soon as they came home would come down to my office to say, Hello and touch base with me. It was a little humbling initially because they only wanted five minutes or so to say, I love you Dad. I responded, I love you too. How was your day? I didnt ask yes/no questions.
My girls knew with my open door policy that they were and are more important than anything Im writing. They said it gave them security knowing they had access to me. Even when I travel for a speaking engagement or consulting, my girls know that if they call, Im going to answer my cell. I may ask, Can we talk later? But Im going to answer their call.
I also began taking my girls on some of my trips so we could have some one-on-one time. This was more work because when I finished working, there was no down time, but I made memories with them forever! It was good use of those frequent flyer miles and hotel points!
Teaching and coaching my girls in basketball and tennis resulted in bonding more with them. Children and wives spell love: T-I-M-E!
The payoff has been my girls asking me to come see them in college and calling to share their lives with me. I often text them: I LOVE YOU.
With my twins being 22 years old and my baby 21, Im glad they want me in their lives. It isnt about being perfect. Ive certainly blown things; but forgiveness is a wonderful thing. It is about consistency. Often, I asked my girls how I was doing as their dad. We had some relevant discussions. They helped me father them better. We all made some changes. They appreciated me apologizing when I was wrong. It is about quantity time, not quality time. QUALITY TIME comes out of QUANTITY TIME.
What Im trying to say is that my daughters love spending time with me, which is one of the greatest gifts that I continue to treasure.
As President of NFI, I speak quite a bit about the need for dads to intentionally reach out and be father figures and mentors for children in father-absent homes. So, inevitably, since I grew up without my father around much, I am asked if a dad reached out to me. Well, the answer is yes.
He entered my life when I was about 7-years-old, around the time that my parents split up. Despite having a child of his own, he took time with my siblings and me. Interestingly, when my older brother and I first met him, he was introduced to us as John, but for some reason, we decided to call him Uncle, not Uncle John
just Uncle. Kids do the darndest things
In any case, when I was 8-years-old, my 10-year-old kid brother drowned while we were on vacation. As you can imagine, I was devastated and could have certainly used a dad to help me make sense of it all but my dad wasnt there. Uncle was.
I visited Uncle, who is now in his 80s, a few months ago and it struck me just how consistently present he was in my young life. So much so, that I have actually taken it for granted that he would always be there as if he was timeless and eternal. But of course, no one is. And now that he is moving into a season where one has more yesterdays than tomorrows, I realize just how much I will truly miss him when he is gone.
You see, just about every first that most boys do with their fathers, I did with Uncle. He gave me my first baseball mitt and taught me how to throw and catch. He took me fishing and helped me reel in my first catch. He took me to my first little league football game and cheered me on from the sidelines. He even took me to buy my first car and helped me fix it
often. Indeed, Uncle was first and foremost just there and I am truly thankful that he was.
So, I guess it was prescient that my brother and I named him Uncle right from the start. Because whenever the pain and sense of loss from not having my dad around was a bit too much for me to bear, I could always just say Uncle, and his presence would ease the pain.
More time with family and stronger relationships...that's what.
I recently saw a poll* showing that four times as many people said their relationships got better, rather than worse, due to the recent recession.
Apparently, cutting back on kids' extracurriculars, staying and eating in, and spending more time together has brought us closer. It has forced us to slow down, spend and expend less, and look inward and homeward for fulfillment and entertainment.
Hopefully we'll all be able to keep this perspective when things pick up - slowing down and really noticing each other shouldn't just be a "hard times" habit.*This poll is referenced in a recent
TIME Magazine article: "The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting." Interesting read...another post for another day.
Today's New York Times carries the poignant story of father absence and reconciliation. Noted French Laundry chef Thomas Keller was only five years old when his father left his family. Years later father Ed and son Thomas started a relationship that had been basically nonexistent.
When the elder Keller had a serious car accident that left him paralyzed, Thomas Keller and longtime companion Laura Cunningham embarked on a year of care giving alongside their busy lives as food industry celebrities and authors. The impact of that renewed relationship had remarkable effects on Keller's professional and personal life. I'd recommend reading the entire story
, but I found this quote about Thomas and his father's reconciliation quite vivid:"It turns out that genetics do matter. Thomas Keller discovered that he was like his father in many ways, not the least of which was his height. The two shared a strong sense of economy, an appreciation of routine and the understanding of how powerful teamwork can be..."
Even in time of recession, work-family balance is still a popular topic. As is this recent study
from the British Equality and Human Rights Commission. They surveyed over 2,200 British fathers about issues related to work, to childcare and household responsibilities, and to differences between mom and dad.
Some of the findings:
- Fathers do want to spend more time with their children, and want to make their children a priority. 54% of dads with children under the age of 1 year felt that they spend too little time with their child.
- More mothers (34%) than fathers (23%) believe that child care is the primary responsibility of the mother.
- There is still a big gap between what flexible working options are available to fathers, and to what extent fathers are actually using those flexible work solutions.
This begs the question - do fathers continue to feel that using flexible work options is potentially damaging to their career? Or are there larger more diverse sets of reasons that fathers don't take the leave available to them?
Check out the inspiring ads just released by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
, a government project for which NFI is the lead contractor.
There are three ads in all, each one encouraging fathers that the "smallest moments have the biggest impact."
Below is my favorite. There are two additional ads: Double Dutch
, which are also very amusing.
Enjoy...and take time to be a dad today!
Arne Duncan, US Education Secretary, was in New Hampshire this week for a town hall
on fatherhood and education:
"Duncan said fathers must move outside their comfort zones and get involved with their children, perhaps in ways they didn't interact with their own fathers.
'When fathers step up, students don't drop out. ... When fathers step up, young folks have greater dreams for themselves,' he said. 'We need to turn those TVs off at night, we need to engage with our children, we need to read to them.'"
We couldn't agree more! If you're a dad who is looking for ways to engage your school child, check out our range of resources
for you and your children's school!
A great proportion of "guydom" (and a good number of women as well) are about to enter into a fast-growing fall ritual - Fantasy Football. A recent article in Time magazine
notes that it has become an $800 million industry! Wow.
Just the other day, the guys here at NFI had a debate (argument?) about whether or not it is "safe" for a dad to get involved in a fantasy football league (one that does not require payment, mind you). Our debate was not about the monetary risk, but the "time" risk - if you become obsessed with fantasy football for four months, where does that leave your family?
One group of dads argued that it is something that you can do with your children, allowing you a great opportunity to spend time with your children and even teach them basic math skills (in calculating scores).
The other group of dads said that you will inevitably end up spending a load of time tweaking your team without your children around, or you could also get your children obsessed with fantasy football to the point that they focus on nothing else but your team (rather than homework, chores, moms, etc).
Where do you fall on this debate? Play fantasy football and get the kids involved or don't play fantasy football so you can focus on your family more?