Working Dads Reflect: Work and Parenting in Corporate America
Today we continue with the Working Dads Reflect Series. Today’s post has some really great insights about what it is like for a father trying to balance work, life and parenting when working in corporate America. The interviewee has asked that this interview be anonymous.
What is what has most surprised you about parenthood?
I don’t know if it’s so much a surprise, but the reality of the extent of a total time commitment and impact on non-familial relationships is probably the single largest surprise. It’s been a struggle to maintain friendships, especially being the first of my group of friends to have a child. I think it’s critically important to retain a semblance of your former life, if only to help maintain sanity. Between parenting full time and working long hours at work, it’s very easy to forget that you had friendships, interests, and hobbies to pursue prior to parenthood. Parents should help facilitate each other having non-family, non-employment related pursuits… otherwise we become robots.
What were your hours like before being a father? Have they changed?
I’ve worked in finance for my entire career, so long hours have been the norm. I was probably pulling between 50-70 hours/week prior to the baby being born, with a very unpredictable travel schedule that kept me on the road/in the air for anywhere between 2-8 months annually. In the immediate term following my son’s birth, my previous company (a large consulting firm) was very accommodating, keeping me off the road for about 6 months, and allowed me to take my 3 weeks of paid paternity leave with not questions. However, I eventually left the company for another job at a large bank to eliminate the possibility of travel.
What are your hours like now?
It’s actually been a significant struggle. When I left consulting, I was looking forward to a company that I thought would be more flexible with work/life balance, and less subject to client whims. Unfortunately, the culture on the ground has been face time intensive, meaning that I’ve been averaging about 50-60 hours a week, along with a very long commute and internal pressure to avoid working remotely.
Do you find yourself thinking you wish your life had more balance?
Absolutely. Corporate culture can very so much from industry to industry and even company to company. In the long term, I’m reconsidering my own career path.
I tend to do a mental exercise where I look at those ahead of me in the corporate food chain and ask myself if “that’s what I want to be when grow up…” It’s very nice to be able to afford a tremendous amount of luxuries, but the cost to a family can be incalculable.
Did you take parental leave? If no, why not? If yes, how long and what was your experience like? Was it paid leave?
My former employer offered 3 weeks of paid paternity leave that was an absolute godsend. They also permitted the leave to be used non-continuously, meaning I was able to use those three weeks as I saw fit. I took two weeks of leave in the immediate time after my son’s birth, which helped immensely in terms of adjusting to our new home life. I then took the third week and an additional week of vacation time when my wife went back to work after 3 months. All of this was critically important, and really helped the transition to our new lives, as well as affording the opportunity to bond with our son.
After the birth of my son, the company actually began offering father’s a full six weeks of paid paternity leave if used in one block. I absolutely would’ve taken advantage of this had it been available!
Do you feel that you spend enough time as a family?
Not at all. Working in finance and having a very long commute is an incredibly stressful and time consuming reality, so we really only get full family time on the weekends. My wife also works a high pressure job, so we both occasionally have work on the weekends which further erodes our family time. Simply put, it’s not tenable in the long run.
Who does more of the cooking and cleaning at home? Percentage?
We each rarely have time to cook, and we have to clean, when we get around to it. It’s probably not an equitable divide, but more of a constant fire fight when messes happen. It’s the unfortunate reality of having two hardworking parents. My wife takes care of the majority of the childcare during the workweek since I spend the vast majority of my time commuting/in the office! We’re very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive extended family… I can’t overstate the tremendous help we’ve received from our parents in terms of time. Our son is lucky to be well loved by his abuelas.
If you could change one thing in the way you do things now, what would it be? Why?
In hindsight, I’ve probably reconsider a career in banking. While very remunerative, allowing for a very comfortable material existence, I don’t think it’s conducive to being the type of father that what’s to be truly present for his family. The culture will take eons to change.
What do you think is the biggest issue parents face today?
I think that varies tremendously from family to family. My wife and I are extremely fortunate to be well-educated and hardworking, which a tremendous support network. My personal biggest concern is the amount of time we have to spend together as a family unit. While I’ve heard people advocate that it’s truly only the “quality time” that matters (being there for recitals, big moments, etc.), I think there is a very strong case to consider that “quantity time” matters just as much – family dinner on weeknights, helping out with homework… even something as simple as catching a ballgame on television together. My experience through life has been that the best relationships are built in small increments over long periods of time… why would it be any different for a family?
This interview makes a lot of great points and sheds light on the challenges dads face, especially when working in an industry that requires a lot of hours. I’m so grateful to my interviewee for the frankness in his answers.
How do you balance work and parenting in Corporate America? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave your comments below!
Read more about the Working Dads Reflect series and the first interview!