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Breadwinning and Caregiving: Liza Mundy on Work and Life

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a weekly radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Liza Mundy, award-winning journalist and author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming our Culture, about how breadwinning and caregiving roles have become gender-neutral and shared by all Americans, and the barriers to men and women embracing the roles that fit them best.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about your primary responsibilities at the New America Foundation.

Liza Mundy: Liza MundyI started at New America after receiving a fellowship from the Foundation to write my last book; it was a real source of intellectual stimulation and support and a wonderful community. Now that I’m taking over as Director of our work and family program, Breadwinning and Caregiving, the aim is to continue to reframe the conversation. I think this is a really interesting moment for these issues – there have been some significant books and articles, and a stream of research in the last several years. The more we can talk about work and family and bring these issues into the public domain, the more we can help people understand that we are all breadwinners and we are all caregivers at some point in our lives. Those two responsibilities are shared by every citizen, and I think it’s fair to say that our laws and policies haven’t changed to enable people to fulfill both sets of obligations, and the workplace is changing in ways that in some respects make it easier and in some respects make it harder to play both roles.

SF: A central question is, Who are the breadwinners and who are the caregivers?  You’re saying we are all breadwinners and caregivers. That’s a radical idea, to construe these roles in society as gender neutral. What do you think are the main barriers to people feeling a greater sense of freedom and opportunity to take up the roles that fit best – breadwinner or caregiver, whether man or woman?

LM: I’ll begin with one that may not be obvious – family members can be a real barrier. For my book, I interviewed any number of couples where the woman had emerged as the primary breadwinner and the man was taking a secondary role in terms of earnings. In many couples, this was working out extremely well, and allowed both partners to fall into patterns that were comfortable for them as a couple. And yet, they were met with a lot of resistance from in-laws who sent powerful signals to the husband that he is, in the words of one man, a parasite – not fulfilling the household role he should. These were often situations in which the grandparents were very proud of their daughter, but unable to see that one of the reasons she is able to be so successful and productive is her supportive partner. After my book came out, I found myself in many conversations with people who were parents of young adult children who were really troubled if, for example, their son made a career concession like moving to another job in another city for the sake of his girlfriend. It’s natural for parents who raised their children – male and female – to be super-performers to have a hard time when one of those children decides to be the lower-key member of a couple. And stigma doesn’t necessarily come only from in-laws.

It wasn’t that long ago that marriage was the only available avenue for women to feel like they had been successful; one way for a woman to telegraph her success was to say what her husband did. I interviewed a really successful young woman, an engineer at Georgia Tech, whose salary one year into the workforce exceeded that of her father, who was a construction worker, and who also made considerably more money than her boyfriend. Her boyfriend had taken the only job he could find that would allow him to be near her, as the manager of a fast food franchise. She told me that when she tells people what her boyfriend does, she doesn’t know quite how to say it. She kept telling me she wasn’t embarrassed, but she said she wasn’t embarrassed so many times that it began to signal that she actually was a little embarrassed by his job.

Women can be offenders in this regard and can perpetuate barriers. I also spoke with a gay man who worked as general counsel in a company and was a father who told me that when he adopted his son and took paternity leave, the women in his office threw him a baby shower and celebrated his leave, but a couple of days into his paternity leave, were calling him and expecting his help. They did not respect the boundary of his paternity leave the way they might have respected a woman’s maternity leave.

SF: What else did you discover in writing your book that you think listeners should know about?

LM: I try to make the argument – not everyone buys it – that young women today have a new opportunity to be the lead partner in their relationships – to be the primary earner, the person who moves to take a new job. I think there’s a willingness on the part of some young men to move for the sake of their girlfriend’s career, or to put their wife through law school with the understanding that she’ll be the lead earner going forward. Those are things women have traditionally done for men, and the fact that we are in a time when some men will put their female partners’ careers first is something women should be happy about. I asked a number of young women, “Would you consider marrying or partnering with someone who didn’t go to college or doesn’t have the same level of education you do?” And they were generally very resistant to that idea. They would often say, “I’ve got to marry a guy who’s on my level,” by which they seemed to mean equally driven and ambitious. That can work, but many women who marry someone they meet in law school or especially business school find that his career ends up taking precedence. In an ideal world, no one would have to work too hard, and we would all share responsibilities, but there is a new opportunity for women willing to seize it to enter into relationships where they will be supported and their career will come first.

Liza Mundy’s most recent book, The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming our Culture, was named one of the top fiction books of 2012 by the Washington Post and a noteworthy book by the New York Times Book Review. She is also the author of Michelle, a biography of First Lady Michelle Obama, which was a New York Times bestseller. Liza Mundy writes and podcasts regularly for New America and other publications; visit New America for a list of her most recent work, and follow her on Twitter @lizamundy.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, July 15 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Ellen Bravo, Director of Family Values @ Work, and Dave Lissy, CEO of BrightHorizons Family Solutions. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


About the Author

Liz Stiverson Liz Stiversonreceived her MBA from The Wharton School in 2014.

Flexibility for Dads — Scott Behson

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Scott Behson, author of the blog, Fathers, Work, and Family and Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he researches work-family balance and high-involvement work practices.  They discussed unique challenges fathers face in the workplace and steps working dads can take to increase their autonomy and freedom, for the benefit of both their jobs and families.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: What do you make of the recently-reported findings that fathers especially benefit when employees are given more autonomy over their time at work?

Scott Behson: ScottIt’s not surprising to me. I find that there are two stigmas fathers face in trying to accommodate their work to their family lives. The first cuts both ways, for men and women – that if you accommodate your work to your family life, you’re seen in the workplace as less committed and not all-in. The second stigma which keeps men from using flexibility as much as they would like, or hiding it when they do, is that they’ll be seen as violating a gender norm by being less manly than society expects.

SF:  The Journal of Social Issues Special Issue of Flexibility Stigma (edited by Joan Williams, a former guest on the show) was all about the flexibility stigma with a number of pieces on how it plays out with men.  So, how do you counsel individuals and organizations to overcome these stigmas and experience greater autonomy and freedom?

SB: To some degree, you have to live in the world as it is, and also try to create change when you can. My first piece of advice to fathers is to really understand what you’re up against. What are the attitudes of your supervisors and coworkers? What is your company culture like? What are your hang-ups about it? I find that a lot of men put this on themselves – even when supervisors might be more supportive than feared, people are afraid to ask for help. In reality, most managers are trying to be good people. They might not fully understand how to get there, but they want what’s best for their employees; if we don’t give them the opportunity to respond, we’re only hurting ourselves. Secondly, I think it’s important that individuals understand what their priorities are. If that means going for the brass ring – the C-suite job or the partnership – that’s great, but you should understand what tradeoffs that will mean in the rest of your life. Conversely, if your highest priority is to be a very involved dad and to be there for much of your children’s childhoods, that’s another set of tradeoffs. However, I would counsel someone struggling with even an unsupportive supervisor or culture to look for smaller, hidden, less formal ways to build in more flexibility.

SF:  This is exactly what we’ve been doing here at Wharton and elsewhere with Total Leadership.  First, diagnose what’s important to you, next dialogue with others, and then discover new ways of integrating work and life by doing small experiments. Can you give some examples from your work?

SB: Even in a company where everyone tends to come in at 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning, colleagues probably wouldn’t look too askance at it if you came in at 8:45 or 9:00, if that means you get to be part of the morning routine with your kids. You could run errands during lunch, or slink out of the office when you can and bring some work home at night. A lot of employees do those invisible things; hopefully, however, we don’t need to keep them in the closet all the time. If you build up a reputation as a good employee, now may be the time to start spending some of that earned cash, saying to a supervisor, “My last three reviews have been great, and I will continue to be great, but let me go home at 3:00 on Thursdays.” A good friend of mine is a top executive at a large accounting and financial firm, and negotiated Daddy Wednesdays for himself much earlier in his career, about 10 years ago. He arranged that he didn’t have to come in until 12:30 or 1:00 on Wednesdays. He kept up every other aspect of his job, but he got to spend the whole morning with his preschool-aged kids on Wednesdays. His corporate culture wouldn’t have liked it, but it wasn’t widely known – he worked it out with a great supervisor.

SF: What I’ve found is that central to this is creating small experiments in ways that are geared toward making other people successful – particularly your manager, who has control over your time and money. The solution has to work for others not just for you.  Have you found this to be the case?

SB: Absolutely. It really jumped out at me in the study you mentioned at the top of the hour on autonomy that the work week got a little shorter and autonomy increased, but productivity was the same. Being able to assure your supervisor of that is really important. You could even do this through a semi-formal contract which says, “Let’s try this out for a month; I’ll give you progress reports of what I’m doing every week, and if you’re not happy with how things are working out after a month, we’ll revisit it.” Normally things work out well after a month – in most white-collar, professional jobs, one third to one half of the work can be done in places other than the office and times other than normal work days and hours. You just have to prove that supervisors’ fears about performance are baseless.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic – I see a lot of dads prioritizing family without paying too much of a price for it, or regretting the tradeoffs. I’m convinced that the more we talk about work-family issues for fathers, the more evident their importance becomes. I would encourage dads who have job security, or a spouse with a stable source of second income, to be brave – be the first person to take paternity leave in your company, or the first person to ask your boss about part-time telecommuting. Maybe they’ll say yes, and maybe someone will see you ask, and decide to ask, too. And it’s important to have social support – I like taking my son to the school bus stop in the morning because I get to chat with other dads in the neighborhood. If you have friends or neighbors, get together with them; inevitably, you’ll talk about work and your families, and realize you’re not alone.

Behson offers more tips on increasing flexibility on his blog. Hear more from him on Twitter @ScottBehson.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, July at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Michael Rashid and Sarah Kagan. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz Stiverson Liz Stiversonreceived her MBA from The Wharton School in 2014.

Changing Work/Life Priorities for Wharton MBA Men

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with men from Wharton’s MBA program about their hopes and expectations for their future careers. Siddharth Shankar (WG’14) and David Ash (WG’15) discussed how demanding work schedules make it difficult for new college graduates to cultivate their personal lives outside their jobs

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Shankar and Ash:

Stew Friedman: We’re talking about the summer internships that students typically do between their first and second years. What’s the downside to a hundred hour work week?

Siddharth Shankar:Siddharth Shankar  I think there’s much more focus on the pros and cons than there was even a few years ago. I think back to my time as an undergrad.  My main considerations then were definitely different from how I evaluate my life now as a graduate student.

SF: What’s changed?

SS: I think as an undergrad all I cared about was maximizing income and maximizing experiences without caring too much about doing things outside of work that really matter to me. Now as I think about post-graduation and working, I put much more thought and effort into considering what I am going to be doing that makes me whole as a person.  That’s not something that really figured into the conversation before.

David Ash: I think that’s definitely right. Out of college, David Ashyou think of your first job, and you want to jump quickly to a great place. I think people didn’t really see that first job as something they would do forever so the goal was to get to that first stepping stone and see where you would go from there.

SF: So you guys didn’t think that when you graduated from college you would be working at the same company for 35 years and get the gold watch? That wasn’t your model?                                

DA: I didn’t think of it as a possibility or even an option. Most people our age assume they’re going to go to many different companies.

SF: Have your priorities shifted?

DA: Yes. I think in graduate school it’s different. You have work experience, you’ve gotten a little money, you’ve been in a job, and you’ve seen potentially how hard it can be to balance work and life. The job MBAs choose to pursue after graduation takes into consideration what they want to do for both the short-term and long-term. Many people are thinking about having families in the shorter-term, and that’s an important consideration for them as well.

SS: In my first job after undergrad, it seemed like there was a wide divide between the folks who seemed to be available for the team at all hours of the night versus those who partied at the end of every week and tended to slack. At the time, I kept questioning why these people were not as committed to work as I was – “I’m putting in 100 hours per week, why isn’t everyone doing the same?” My myopic viewpoint of just thinking about me, my work, and not anything outside of that probably led to that impression.

SF: Do you have the opposite view now?

SS: I think I’ve had much more of a reality check and seen that there are things that those individuals were thinking about at the time that I probably needed to be think about as well. I think my tolerance for allowing for and respecting people who make choices to prioritize things other than work has definitely increased since business school.

SF: How does that effect how both of you are thinking about what you’ll do next with your lives?

DA: I’m still thinking about what I want to do next, but I am saying to myself for the first time, “I want a valuable personal life.” The change is in thinking that there’s more to a job than just “where I can go from here?” and “how does this position me well?”

SS: One difference I see between the time when my dad was working and now is that most companies are realizing that employees who give their 100% at work and do not take care of anything outside of that for the bulk of their early careers become a liability at later stages in their employment.

SF: So there’s a long-term cost associated with the burnout?

SS: Absolutely. I think, especially in consulting firms, all the successful partners that I’ve seen are not the ones who seem to embody the values that I had as an analyst, but quite the opposite. They carved out time for their families, and they were very deliberate and open with the team, like, “Hey, I have to attend this particular concert that my daughter is giving, so we can’t do a call at that time.” I really respected them for that, and they have since become role models that I will try to emulate.

SF: Is that consistent with what you’ve seen, David? That the people who rise highest are those who have full and varied lives?

DA: Definitely. When I started in consulting, I had the perception that for these hard-charging businessmen, it’s all about business. They might have been divorced multiple times or spend very limited time with their kids. I was very surprised though that all the partners I saw were still married and had good relationships with their kids. I have no doubt they put in a lot of work to manage that.

SS: I also think companies are doing a much better job these days with that. I always think back to my dad’s company in India and how different his choices were than those I have now. For instance, I never saw my dad the entire week. I’d wake up at 8 in the morning to go to school, and he’d be out by then, and then I’d be asleep by 10 at night, and he’d come in after I went to bed. I’d only see him on Saturday when he didn’t go to work and also maybe on Sunday. Now, there are so many schemes at so many of these companies that are recruiting on campus. Some consulting firms even have this option called “take time” where they let you take two months off every year to just do whatever you want. They look at it as time for you to recharge and engage your entire self in an activity that you consider rewarding. They expect that you bring that new experience and learning with you when you come back to work, which I think is amazing.

Tune in to Work and Life on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Wharton alum Erica Dhawan, Author, Speaker, Founder and CEO of Cotential, and Allison Karl O’Kelly, Founder and CEO of Mom Corps. Visit Work and Life for a schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

The Path to Shared Care — Jessica DeGroot on Work and Life

Contributor: Kate Mesrobian

Jessica DeGrootJessica DeGroot founded ThirdPath Institute in 1999 to encourage employees at all stages in their lives to follow a “third path” – one that allows success at work while creating time and energy for their lives outside of work, as opposed to an exclusive focus on one or the other.

On his radio show, Work and Life (on Sirius XM’s Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School), Stew Friedman spoke with Jessica DeGroot about the overwhelming priority work receives and why we need a cultural shift in our approach to work and the rest of life. DeGroot offers practical solutions for individuals and couples to improve life outside work.

Following are edited excerpts of DeGroot’s conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: What was the origin of ThirdPath Institute?

Jessica DeGroot: When I first came to Wharton as an MBA, I thought about what might be a logical solution to creating healthy families. Healthy relationships are good for an organization and for business. If you have an employee who is in healthy, satisfying relationship, they are more focused and ready to work each day. I wanted to equip families with tools for how do work differently. “Shared care” is about two people sharing in the care of a family. Some families figure out how both parents can care for the family.  – For example, both parents working, so that the dad isn’t the sole provider. Planning where the couple is headed and considering how they want to think about care together is important.

SF: We don’t have to choose between career and family aspirations. But so many people still struggle to make a shared care model work.  

JD: Yes, and right now, we are talking about professional families, where the mom and dad both work in professional jobs, and the biggest worry is that if they don’t follow the normal path, their choices will have a negative impact on their career trajectory and they will not be able to earn as much. We call that the “work first” model, where you have to have your work come first.What we’ve been able to do over the past six years is have leaders show that there is a different model out there in which male and female leaders have not followed the work first model and been able to gain leadership positions and make all parts of their life accessible.

SF: What would you say is most essential to making that model real?

JD: The couple needs clarity about their priorities and to watch each other’s back. They need simple solutions and a back up plan, what we call a Plan B, for situations that arise.

SF: What do you mean by Plan B?

JD: Starting your own job outside of the corporate world, writing for a year.  There are a lot of other alternatives nowadays if your current circumstances are not aligning with your priorities. One example is a mom who created a flex-year solution. She really wanted time with her kids, and summers were a big opportunity. So she went to a 20-hour per month schedule in the summer. Before the summers, she trained people to manage the time she was away. She was such an incredible mentor that her mentees were plucked away and put into other assignments because of their increased skill levels.  

SF: I talked earlier about the New York Times magazine cover story “Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?” What’s your take on the connection between romance and the 50-50 model?

JD: I have done a lot of reflection on why we use shared care.  If both members of a married couple have a full time job, both have given most of their energy to work. The rest of their energy is reserved for family, children, bills, but probably not for sex. One in five couples are considered a sexless couple, meaning that they have sex 10 or fewer times per year. We are all just overwhelmed, and we need to take action today. This is bigger than the trend of egalitarian couples – as a society, we are overwhelmed, and we are disproportionally giving energy and time to work and not to the other things we care about. One unique thing about shared care couples is that we tell them to be more intentional about their time.

SF: So an important part of the solution is to be mindful and intentional with time?

JD: My husband and I go to Miami once a year, just the two of us. We prioritize this time. We not only prioritize sharing household responsibilities, but also what’s important to us. Personally, my priorities are about having a passionate marriage and having fun.

SF: What are some of the things you’ve learned about staying true to those priorities?

JD: We have learned what we call “21st century skills.” We learned how to turn our cell phones off, to take a vacation and “turn off” work by setting boundaries. There’s a pattern for learning better skills to cope with our crazy, overwhelming world.

SF: What are the important things for listeners to be mindful of to create boundaries?

JD: Experiment with these thoughts starting today. Take that vacation and turn off work for that whole week. If a family has kids, the primary focus is to develop this mindset to model these actions for your children, such as having dinner together and putting the cell phone away. This can be difficult with the slippery slope of letting work slide into our lives, but modeling the behavior is important. If my son tries to text during dinner, I will say “You know we don’t text during dinner,” and he knows that because we have been doing that for 15 years.Parents have to role model and show the value of prioritizing life and family themselves.

SF: Let’s talk about businesses and what organizations can do to enable the full immersion of both parents in both family and career life.

JD: Flexibility for everybody is key. Whether for caring for children or an aging parent, you want people to look for the right answer. I would tell companies to think of a solution for the triple win: effective for the employee getting work done, effective at meeting the firms’ own needs, and also good for their colleagues and clients.

SF: But there’s no one size fits all solution, and companies can make that mistake.

JD: You have to customize the flexibility to your business, and you have to have leaders who model what they believe in.  If you are in an organization and cannot leave, you can look inside the organization and find a more supportive manager to work normal hours, which means not working nights, still having dinner with the family, and not having to work on the weekend. If you set that boundary, you can improve your life quite a bit.  The first step is for couples to clarify their priorities, have a collaborative conversation, and become a resource to one another.

SF: Where do people find the time to step back and make change? Do you have to reach a point of stress where you need to make the change or can you be more proactive?

JD: The starting point is being able to step back and get off that gerbil wheel. Teenagers are actually more proactive with this. I can’t tell you how many times I see parents on their phones with their kids pulling on their sleeves, going, “Could you put the phone away?”

SF: It’s easy to ignore those signals to put the phone away and stop using technology when you have a client on the line.

JD:  I think of this as a muscle. These are families that want to change, but they absolutely make mistakes. People are developing this skill of how to set boundaries and turn off technology. Learn to see what it feels like to stop and turn of that cell phone and slowly develop that muscle.

SF: What have you learned in your work with families?

JD: I think professional families have a lot to learn from other families. Professional families put a lot of investment in their profession. I’ve learned from working class families, however, the importance of couples having their priorities pretty straight and making time for them. In many such families, they are willing to change jobs to have time for the things they care about. They demonstrate how to make work part of your life but not all of your life.  

SF: What would you want to say to current MBA students?

JD: Dream big.  It’s all possible. Keep track of what’s important. Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn from others who have experimented with different work/life style integrations with their partners.

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body and spirit).  Join Stew next week, Tuesday February 25, at 7 PM conversations with Deika Morrison, co-founder and President of Do Good Jamaica, and with Jerry Jacobs, Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, and Founding President of the Work and Family Researchers Network.

About the Author

Kate Mesrobian is a sophomore in the Huntsman Program in Business and International Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. 


Manliness, No Longer Synonymous with “Macho”

Contributor: Arjan Singh

manlinessIn a sea of macho stereotypes, new voices are changing the face of manhood. One of them, a niche men’s lifestyle website called The Art of Manliness, publishes articles, such as On Being Neighborly and The New Dad Survival Guide, alongside tutorials on straight-razor shaving and the art of Krav Maga. Started in 2008 by Brett McKay, a former lawyer, the site eschews the cartoonish, hyper-masculine and macho images conjured by the word “manliness” in favor of the quest to become a well-rounded man in all aspects of life (not just at the bar and the gym). In the past, men were not generally expected to have a hand in the “feminine” tasks of raising a family, such as changing diapers or cooking meals. Today, however, the role of the man is shifting.

Family and Work – Not Just a Women’s Issue

Stewart Friedman, Director of the Work/Life Integration Project, has widely discussed the pushback he received in 1987 when he introduced the topic of family to a class of MBA students. Work and family, especially at elite business schools, has long been seen as a women’s issue, if it was discussed at all. However, a September 2013 Pew Research Center study found that 550,000 American men are staying home full-time with their children – nearly double the number of that from the 1970s – and this number is expected to increase. While many young men will now grow up to become stay-at-home-dads, an also-increasing number will become parents in dual-career homes. Discussion of family and the integration of work and life seeps into the classroom and public sphere with less pushback now than in 1987, with men embracing the issue of family and work.

Time to Take Action

We need conversations by men and for men. As Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement goes global, work/life integration continues to seem tailored for women. Yet a March 2013 Pew Research Center study found that nearly equal proportions of fathers and mothers are struggling to “do it all.” Evidence shows that men today spend three times as much time with their children than their grandfathers did.  If you’re a guy, bring to light these conversations with your friends, family and colleagues. And women – encourage the men in your lives to embrace their “manliness” and become better boyfriends, husbands, and fathers. Discussions with my peers – driven young men ages 18 to 24 – reveal that we have goals that go beyond our careers and making money. No longer are men okay with a “Cat’s in the Cradle” existence of broken homes and neglected children in order to rise professionally.  Indeed, this is what Friedman observed in his 2013 book about the Work/Life Integration Project’s study of the differences between the Wharton Classes of 1992 and 2012, Baby Bust:  New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family.

Deloitte Dads, otherwise known as the Fraternity of Paternity, are an example of modern day alpha fathers who are committed to work/life integration. The men in this group focus on time management, precisely tailoring their work schedules weeks in advance, in order to create more flexibility at home. In-person meetings are often moved to conference calls and “out-of-the-office” options allow for more flexibility at work and at home.  We need more groups similar to the Deloitte Dads that help men, both young and old, deal with the struggle of integrating all parts of their lives through bold and aggressive changes. Men, too, deserve to “have it all.”

For more on men and work/life integration, check out the Forum’s recap of Stew Friedman’s interview with Matt Schneider (W’97) on the rise of stay-at-home dads and their impact on families and businesses, and read about Stew’s conversation with Brad Harrington about the substantive shift in the role men play in their families and how organizations can support the “new dad.” For more conversations like these, tune in to Work and Life every Tuesday at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111, “like” the Wharton Work / Life Integration Project on Facebook, and subscribe to the Forum.

About the Author

Arjan SinghArjan Singh is an undergraduate sophomore studying economics at The Wharton School.

The New Dad — Brad Harrington on Work and Life

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

Brad HarringtonOn Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Brad Harrington – research professor and Executive Director of the Center for Work and Family at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management – about the substantive shift in the role men play in their families from financial provider to equal caretaker, and how organizations can support The New Dad.

Following are edited excerpts of Harrington’s conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: What are some of the major similarities and differences you’ve observed between mothers and fathers immediately after the birth of their first child?

Brad Harrington: The major differences are probably going to come as no surprise. First, becoming a father was more of an incremental experience than was becoming a mom. I remember Carol Evans from Working Mother once said that no matter how well-prepared you are, how much thought you’ve put into it, how many books you’ve read, nothing can quite prepare a woman for the experience of having a child. When that child arrives, all of a sudden all bets are off, and a woman has to re-think what she really wants to do with her life and how the work-family interplay will trade off. For men, the experience is more gradual. We’ve seen in multiple studies that men take only a few days off following the birth of their first child; 16% of men say they didn’t take a single day off.

SF: Is that because they didn’t want to, or because they didn’t feel it was legitimate for them to do so?

BH: It’s some of both, but I would put more onus on the men than I would on the organizations. The majority of men, 76%, took a week off or less, and 96% took two weeks off or less. Only one out of 20 men are spending more than 10 working days at home with their newborns. That contrasts, of course, with the experience of women, who on average take 12-14 weeks, and can often stretch a maternity leave to six months. There isn’t paid leave in most organizations, and there certainly isn’t paid leave across the board in the United States. Although we might say these men would have to take some time off without pay, that’s a sacrifice women have been making for years. One of the ways in which men and women are different is that women spend much more time in the first months of the child’s life bonding with the child, flying solo as a parent, really connecting with that little person. Men don’t have an opportunity to do that, and once they miss that initial opportunity, they are already moving down the path of being a supporting actor to the mother as primary player within the first few weeks and months of the child’s life.

SF: What can organizations do to really make a difference and move us forward on this front?

BH: If organizations can get a data point on where men are these days in their attitudes about work and satisfaction with their careers as well as professional aspirations and their role as parents, they would be quite surprised about the reality of the stereotype they hold about men and their career motivations.  In particular, that men have a singular focus on their contribution to the family as the provider is a stereotype that is outdated. When we surveyed men at four major Fortune 500 companies, we looked at six criteria on being a good father and asked which was most important to them. One of the criteria was being a good financial provider. Of the six, that criterion came out fifth in the rating of importance to being a good father. More salient than being a good provider were being present and visible in the child’s life, being a good coach and role model, being a good mentor, and providing love and emotional support. If these new paradigms for young men were apparent to leaders in organizations, they would start to say, “Gee, we might need to really rethink our assumptions.”

Becky (caller from California): My husband and I have two daughters, a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old, and when they were born in 1991 and 1994, it was not very popular to have reversed roles. My husband and I reversed roles out of necessity – I had a standard job with retirement and benefits, and he was self-employed. We faced stigma and lost family and friends who said, “How dare he stay home and babysit while his wife works.”

BH: That stigma is very real, and sometimes it comes from the people closest to the men affected. Their parents and friends say, “You’ve dropped out of the workplace to stay home with your kid? When are you going to get back to your job to make money to support the family?” But usually, over a period of time, more people get up close and see how well this arrangement is working not only for the wife but for the husband and the children. After that people are much more accepting.

As one of my colleagues said, it isn’t about gender, it’s about competence. When women entered the workplace in large numbers in professional and managerial roles 30 years ago, we looked through a lens of “Can women make it? Can women be successful? Are women ambitious enough?” Over the past 30 years we’ve come to realize that it wasn’t gender, it was competence. When women were able to display their competence in leading, negotiating, facilitating, and analyzing, people stopped talking about whether women’s gender allowed them to be good enough in the workplace; it was simply about whether they were competent.

So often – especially in the media – we talk about men in the context of the family in disparaging ways. “He’s 100% committed to his career,” “He wouldn’t know what to do if we left him at home with the kids,” “He’s babysitting today,” “A man could never possibly fix his daughter’s hair or get her ready for school, or find clothes that match for his children.” If we talked about women in the workplace the way we talk about men in the home, we’d be sued for that, and rightly so. The jokes women had to put up with 30 years ago are the jokes men are still putting up with today. We see commercials where men sit around and drink beers with their friends when the wife leaves her husband at home alone and chaos ensues; we don’t see very many commercials of men being competent at caregiving and parenting.

SF: What is the most important advice you would give your kids so that they can have the opportunity to create lives for themselves and decide how they’ll contribute to the world?

BH: Don’t get stuck in a paradigm and assume the way things are is the way things need to be. It’s all about individual choice and having the courage to follow your convictions.

Brad Harrington is the author of Career Management & Work Life Integration: Using Self-Assessment to Navigate Contemporary Careers; learn more about his research in his 2013 white paper The New Dad: A Work (and Life) in Progress.

Tune in to Work and Life next Tuesday, February 11 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Jessica DeGroot (WG ’94) and current Wharton MBA students Pamela Freed, Nohemie Sanon, and Meaghan Casey on how couples can share caregiving to mutual advantage and how women planning business leadership roles see their future work and family lives. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School. 

Dads as Primary Caregivers – Breaking Down Stereotypes with Matt Schneider on Work and Life

Contributor: Kate Mesrobian

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

Matt SchneiderOn Work and Life on Sirius XM’s Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School, Stew Friedman spoke with Matt Schneider, co-founder and co-organizer of NYC Dads Group, about the rise of stay-at-home dads and new choices for men and women in work and family. NYC Dads Group exists as a meet-up community that gives stay-at-home fathers the opportunity to socialize and support each other in their role as primary caregivers.   Matt Schneider spoke about breaking down through new marketing, social media engagement, and work place innovation.

Following are edited excerpts of Schneider’s conversation with Friedman.

SF: What were the things Dads cared most about when you started meet-ups with other stay-at-home dads?

MS: We cared about the same things any caring parent would care about. We had meet-ups about what dads were feeding their kids, potty training, choosing a preschool… Being good parents was first and foremost a priority.

SF: This was not something you were trained in your early lives to pay a lot of attention to, I imagine.

MS: I would say few of us, men or women, train to be parents or homemakers. We had caring parents as role models, but growing up in the 70s and 80s, women weren’t trained to be homemakers, either. There was simply an expectation that they could fill that role. Men and women are both scared as they jump into this thing called parenting. Our philosophy is: We’re all in this together. Let’s learn together how to be good parents, and make sure that neither one of us takes on too much of the role and pushes the other out.

SF: What else was on your minds when you got together as dads in the role of the primary caregiver?

MS: We thought of ourselves as a community. It was crazy to think that men could get together to talk and share ideas. Men don’t get together anymore. Developing community became important to us. We also have a lot of working dads who want to re-enter the work force.

SF: So this is not just about stay-at-home dads, this is about dads as primary- caregivers or equal partners in caregiving.

MS: Exactly. According to the Census Bureau, as of last year there are about 189,000 stay-at-home dads. But the Census defines stay-at-home dad as someone who does not make a dollar over the course of the entire year. The reality is there are a lot of dads out there that have part time jobs, so the number of a stay-at-home dads is much greater than one thinks. We have a wide range of dads in our group.

SF: What do you see as the primary driver for why society is changing in the way that it has with respect to the role of fathers?

MS: I think it has changed in some ways, and in some ways it hasn’t. The great news is that mothers and fathers who are making these decisions together are making good financial decisions. They are not being held back by gender stereotypes from the past. They decide whose career to rely on to provide for the family and who should step back. Today, there are a lot more dads who are thinking of themselves in a secondary bread-winner role because women have increased in the work force.

SF: What do you mean by a secondary work role? Secondary with respect to what?

MS: I now consider myself a work-at-home dad, but my career is secondary to my wife’s career. Every day I work a certain number of hours. The rest of my time is spent taking care of my kids, doing laundry, planning meals, shopping for groceries, and all that type of stuff. My wife and I made that plan before we were married. You should have this conversation before marriage. I was never forced into the situation; I was the one interested in the situation.

Caller from Denver: I love what you have founded, turning a simple meet up into a large organization. What advice or suggestions do you have to bring what you’re doing to other places?

MS: There are great groups like ours across the country. There’s a national organization – National At-Home Dad Network that has a listing of all the “dad groups” across the country

SF: How do you respond to stereotypes?

MS: Pop culture has been a big part of the problem for so long. Guys have been portrayed in the movies, TV, the media, as buffoons: duct-taping diapers together, wearing a gas mask until mom gets home and saves the day. We hear from moms all the time that they want a partner, not a husband portrayed as a buffoon. Many brands are recognizing that dads are a big part of the equation.

SF: And you’re helping some of these brands, aren’t you?

MS: We are. We will have meet-ups across the country this year where brands get to meet our dads directly. Our dads will use their products, tell them what we think, and share our thoughts over our blog and social media.

SF: How have you used social media?

MS: Other men now have license to say, “Wow, I can be the one holding our baby, pushing the stroller.” To me, the term “manly” is so weird. I think it’s manly to do what makes sense for your family. In so many cases it makes sense for both to jump in. I know my wife could not do the job she does if I weren’t at home with our children. I don’t want to take credit for her talents and success. She works in private equity and real estate. She worked at Goldman Sachs. These are very demanding, work-oriented environments. These are not people who prioritize work/life integration. She has had to devote herself to her career, and our joint decision for me to stay home has enabled that.  So for good or bad she has been able to be very successful, and together, we have created the life we are looking for in New York. That’s not to say she isn’t an excellent mother as well. She jumps right in to parenting. And who knows? She might have to take a step back from her career. We talked about it before we got married. If it wasn’t working for me, we would talk and change.

SF: You set aside time to talk about these things regularly?

MS: With all decisions – financial, parenting – we talk. We are by no means perfect. We argue. We fight. But we try to make these decisions together. I actually don’t think there’s anything special in the way we communicate. The same kind of communication should happen with stay-at-home moms and bread-winning dads. We teach classes for expecting dads, and the first thing we say is don’t allow yourself to get pushed out of that parenting role. It sounds like a great short-term, easy solution to get diapers changed by mom. But it turns out that those moments of changing your child’s diapers are pretty special. That’s when your relationship develops. It’s the day-to-day moments we need to be a part of, and we encourage dads to get in the game. It’s rewarding to be an involved, active dad, and necessary from a parenting and partnership perspective. Both of you need to be capable of getting the stuff done.

Matt Schneider, a former public school teacher, is an at-home dad who lives with his wife and two boys in New York City. He is the co-founder of NYC Dads Group.  He plans workshops, screenings, and lectures with parenting, family, and education experts on behalf of the group. Matt has written for New York Family magazine, Huffington Post, Big Apple Parent, Role/Reboot, and The Good Men Project. For more information about being a stay-at-home dad and for ways to connect with other stay-at-home dads, visit NYC Dads Group online or refer to the National At-Home Dad Network.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday February 4 at 7 PM on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Marci Alboher (Penn ’88), on finding purpose and meaning later in life and Katrina Alcorn, on strategies to manage the stress that comes from trying to have it all. for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Kate MesrobianKate Mesrobian is a sophomore in the Huntsman Program in Business and International Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.