Note: This post was first published on June 13, 2015, on the Mothering in the Middle blog. I am grateful to Cyma Shapiro for granting me the opportunity to be a guest author on her site!
A few weeks ago, I wrote about celebrating our mother colleagues at work on Mother’s Day. And the same, I believe, should go for dads. Both of these parental-celebration days are, for good reason, celebrated privately, among family. But there is no reason not to tout the merits of great moms and great dads at our places of employment, too.
I know, I know – studies have shown that women get a “motherhood penalty” at work and are suddenly perceived as less competent, while fathers get the so-called “fatherhood bonus” simply for having kids. These are biases that we, as a society need to work hard to educate ourselves about and to eradicate.
But “fatherhood bonus” aside, I think there are far too many workplaces and workplace policies and cultures that make it difficult for fathers to be as engaged as many would like to be in the lives of their little ones. I recently heard about an “expectant” dad who was a lawyer at a large law firm, who didn’t tell any of his colleagues he was about to go out on a 4-week paternity leave. And then, one day, he mysteriously left. His colleagues panicked, and work wasn’t transitioned properly.
Yes, it’s easy to say he should have made everyone aware of his impending leave (pregnant women and their growing bellies don’t have this dilemma!), but I also think it’s striking and sad that his workplace was one in which taking parental leave was something for a man to feel stigmatized about. That he felt he couldn’t even have open conversations with his colleagues about this major life event makes me worry about the workplace culture. I’ve heard more stories than I can count of men who don’t take the full amount of paternity leave permitted by their employers (even paid leave), for example, because they are worried about how taking that leave will be perceived by their colleagues and bosses.
So, this Father’s Day, I vote that we celebrate our father colleagues who play active roles in their children’s lives. Who take the full parental leave offered by their employers. Who leave “early” to do daycare pickup, help their kids with homework, make dinner, and coach teams. And who are brave enough to stand up to prevailing workplace norms that may tell them they’re less committed as an employee if they do these things.
And I vote that we celebrate the workplaces – and the leaders at their helms –that promote a culture where it’s okay to “be a dad” in a public, active way. Where generous, paid paternity leave is an option. Where it’s more than just okay, but actually encouraged to take the full amount of that leave. And where no one – male or female – pays a penalty for being an engaged and dedicated parent, in addition to being an engaged and dedicated employee.
Happy Father’s Day!
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