Good old Pew Research Center released a new poll on fathers and work life balance that is raising major eyebrows. The latest cultural survey says that men are more and more concerned about spending enough time with their children. Dads are feeling the work life balance struggle. And the response from an astonishing number of women I know has been along the lines of, “Oh, poor guys. Please tell us about it.”
After Pew published the research, the collective response from the Twitter moms I follow was a shrug of the shoulders and maybe a little snark. When I mentioned the research to a few mom friends, they responded with some serious gloating. “Now, they finally care? Well sorry if I’m a little too busy to feel bad,” one friend threw out.
In some ways, I definitely understood the defensive response. I got a little annoyed with the fawning conversations around stay-at-home dads that were absolutely nothing like the way we portray stay-at-home moms. I think it makes sense that women get annoyed when problems they’ve been discussing for years are suddenly worthy of national outrage because men are worried about them.
At the same time, I think we need to realize that as a man’s role in society and in a family changes, they’re going to go through some growing pains. And maybe it would be nice if we supported them with that transition instead of making it more difficult. As moms, why not come together and support our partners who are trying to be more active parents?
Men are expected to take a bigger role in childrearing than ever before. And Pew says that 46% of dads feel like they aren’t spending enough time with their kids. That’s double the percentage of moms who feel the same. And these are dads who are spending triple the amount of time with their kids than fathers did back in the 1960s. These dads are more involved than ever, and they still feel like it’s not enough.
As a mom, I am so familiar with that feeling! I know exactly what the researchers are talking about. It’s an issue that I worry about frequently, making sure that I have enough quality family time with my little girl. Instead of rolling my eyes at a man who might feel the same, I want to help him with survival tips. I want to pat his shoulder and tell him that the guilt doesn’t do you any good. I want help dads out.
As a feminist, I want a more equal society. I don’t want to make men miserable. I want to make them empowered to be as involved with their family and their children as they want to be. Supporting dads who are trying to be active parents only furthers my cause. And I like to think that supporting men on the parenting front will only continue to help women grow in the business world.
Gender stereotypes work both ways and they harm all of us. Anything we can do to support one another is a good thing. So let’s acknowledge that men are starting to feel a bit of dad guilt, and then let’s help them through it the same way that we band together and support our fellow mothers.