Fewer Men Willing to Be Stay-at-Home Dads

By SHRM Online staff Jun 18, 2009

Working dads continue to explore different options to free up more time with their families, but fewer are willing to leave their jobs if their other half could comfortably carry the financial load for the entire family.

While nearly one-third (31 percent) of 797 U.S. men would give up the traditional role of breadwinner, that percentage has dropped from 37 percent in 2008 and 49 percent in 2005, according to CareerBuilder’s Working Dads 2009 survey. The survey was conducted in February and March 2009 with men who were employed full time and have children age 18 or younger living at home.

Their workload is cutting into the time fathers spend with their children during the work week—half missed a significant event in their child’s life in the past year because of work, and more than one-fourth (28 percent) missed more than three such events. Nearly one-third bring work home at least once a week, up from 25 percent in 2008.

In addition, 39 percent spend two hours or less per day and 14 percent spend an hour or less with their children during the work week. About one-third of fathers bring work home at least once a week in 2009, up from 25 percent from a year ago.

“Many working dads have to contend with heavier workloads and longer hours as businesses struggle to do more with less,” said Jason Ferrara, senior career advisor at CareerBuilder and father of two children.

Close to one-third (30 percent) are willing to take a pay cut to spend more time with their kids, but that’s down from 37 percent in 2008. However, 40 percent would consider a pay cut of 10 percent or more to spend extra time with their children.

“It’s important,” Ferrara said in a press release, “to have a conversation with your supervisor. Employers are placing more emphasis on work/life balance through creative benefits that encourage employees to better manage their personal and professional commitments. However, nearly half of working dads do not take advantage of any flexible work arrangements offered to them.”

Blame an economy that has found layoffs affecting more men than women. Nearly all of 150 fathers surveyed wish they could spend more time with their kids, according to the 11-page 2009 State of Dad Report that ad agency Sullivan Higdon & Sinkreleased June 17. SHS fielded the survey May 12 and 13, 2009, with 300 respondents; half were fathers and half were mothers. All were married and had at least one child.

Work responsibilities are the major obstacle to their being better fathers, according to two-thirds of the men. More men than women cited it as the main barrier to being a better parent (62 percent of men vs. 53.5 percent of women).

Other top obstacles, men said, were their financial responsibilities (51 percent of men vs. 35.5 percent of women). An equal percentage of men and women (49 percent) said lack of time was another top obstacle.

Almost 82 percent of men, though, say they spend more time with their children than their fathers spent with them.

Today’s fathers pointed to the love they share with their children, hearing them laugh and play, and modeling what it means to be a man as some of their favorite aspects of fatherhood. While lack of sleep, administering discipline and changing diapers were among the least favorite aspects of fatherhood, others noted:

  • “It’s not always convenient to give time to my kids because of outside responsibilities.
  • “Not having enough time to spend with my teenagers.”
  • “Making time for fun things with all the financial responsibilities that come with having a family.”
  • “How the culture has changed and I didn’t keep up with it.”
  • “The responsibility to financially care for my family.”

“Today’s dads still feel the pressure of old provider stereotypes,” says John January, SHS senior vice president and executive creative director. “Time is money,” he observed in a press release, “and dads feel pressure to provide both in ample amounts. When those goals compete with one another, dads worry they’re not delivering.”

The Executive Summary of results from a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey found that formal flexible work arrangements (FWAs) have a positive impact on employees and employers. Those impacts include improving employee morale, retention and the quality of employees’ personal/family life.

The most common obstacle organizations experienced with formal FWAs, SHRM found, was suitability of the job—the type of work the employee performed—for flexible work arrangements.

Communicating to employees how an organization’s FWA program works, involving line managers in the design and implementation of FWAs, and consistent policy and program implementation also are important, SHRM found, as well as being able to measure the FWA’s success.

The full report will be released in early July 2009 at http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Pages/default.aspx.


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