Thursday, July 11, 2013

Let's hear it for the boys

It's been a year since Anne-Marie Slaughter published her article in the Atlantic and four months since the release of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In.  So it's refreshing to see several articles this past week from men who are trying to support their families and spouses "have it all".  We talk so much about the need for women to have a seat in the boardroom, yet we spend far too little time talking about making room for men at the child care table.

So let's hear for the boys and lean back to hear what they have to say.  After all, Sandberg tells us that the most important career decision a woman can make is who they will marry.

On Sunday, a male Facebook employee Tom Stocky wrote an incredibly honest and insightful post about his experience taking the full paternal leave that his company offers.  He writes:
"What I never got used to was the double-standard for fathers when it comes to childcare. I experienced it predominantly in three forms: (1) low expectations for fathers, (2) negative perceptions of working mothers, and (3) negative perceptions of 'non-working' fathers."
Stephen Marche takes to the pages of the Atlantic to write his own manifesto for families trying to "have it all" arguing that many career and child care decisions by couples are made by pure economics rather than gender role assumptions. It's a thoughtful addition to Slaughter and Sandberg in that he lays out the challenges facing men who take less "traditional" roles in their families.  I found it particularly resonating with me, as so many of my straight friends with kids have active and attentive fathers, while the mother has the more high-powered, more demanding, and often the more lucrative career.  His conclusion is spot on: "A conversation about work-life balance conducted by and for a small sliver of the female population only perpetuates the perception that these are women’s problems, not family ones."

I sincerely hope that more men will join Marche and Stocky in taking their company's full paternal leave or choosing to stay/work from home with the children.  While these articles are encouraging, men like this do remain the exception not the rule.  Stay-at-home dads are increasing at a sad rate. And men simply do not take the full paternal leave that their company policy allows.  Just as women need more female role models in top positions, men need to have more peers and leaders visibly choosing to take leadership roles in child rearing.

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