I recently found myself crammed next to a man on public transit during the morning rush hour. He wore a well-pressed suit, and hung on to an aging stroller, his gaze fixed on his baby girl, who played peekaboo behind the stroller's canopy. "Working dad" repeatedly caressed her face and tenderly moved the hair from her eyes, likely while was mentally gearing up for another day at the office.
The sight struck me not because it's unusual, but because I realized how commonplace that scene has become. Anecdotally and statistically, fathers are stepping up to the plate in every way imaginable. As my children's pediatrician observed recently, over the past 10 years a dramatic shift has occurred in his waiting room, where dads taking up increased space.
A lot of attention is paid to how women navigate the work force as mothers. While parental leave for fathers in Canada now seems routine, the impact that child-rearing takes on a man's career has yet to be explored to the same degree. If more fathers were to identify themselves as "working dads," it would add support to the plight of "working moms" and lead to a healthier discussion about workplace and domestic equality.
Moms aside, working dads need a greater dialogue about these issues because the definition of masculinity appears to be evolving more slowly than parenting trends, causing stress for many men. A 2008 U.S. national survey found that men experience more work-personal life conflicts than do women. Despite a trend toward more egalitarian family roles, men felt compelled to be the primary breadwinner as well as an involved father.
At the forefront of this evolving dialogue on the role of working fathers is an army of daddy bloggers, who challenge the perception of dad as an incompetent second choice for a mom.
"There isn't a single thing my wife can do – aside from breast feeding, giving birth and carrying a baby – that I can't," said Adam Dolgin, the Toronto-based founder of Fodder4Fathers.com, a website that champions the involved father.
"I cook, I clean, I bathe, I change diapers, I discipline, and feed and read to my kids, and I love every minute of it."
Challenging public perceptions about the role of fathers, often stereotyped in the media, plays an integral role in determining the expectations of fathers in the business world. "There is a stigma that goes along with being a very involved dad," Mr. Dolgin noted.
"Corporate North America is very macho, and running off to take care of your kids is seen as a weakness …Sure, companies like hiring married men with kids, they make for more stable workers; but they don't want them to be overly involved with their children's care as that's counterproductive to their needs," he said.
Other daddy bloggers see some positive traction on how the labour market views working fathers, but lament the slow progress.
"Even in 2013, there are many men and women in corporate leadership who believe that men should make the money while women handle the domestic duties," said Doyin Richards, the Los Angeles-based author of a Facebook page dubbed Daddy Doin' Work , which documents his life as a first-time dad in corporate America.
Mr. Richards said he repeatedly hears complaints from his "dad friends" that their bosses or colleagues give them grief when they leave work early for a parent-teacher conference. Still, he believes companies are slowly adapting as more women move into leadership roles.
The trend to support working dads is taking root in some forward-thinking businesses.
Andrew Hamer, a senior consultant at Deloitte Canada in Toronto, said he launched a group dubbed "Deloitte Dads" in 2010 because he was "unwilling to believe that it is impossible to have an active co-parenting role and a successful career path in management consulting." The group's mission is to foster a more inclusive work environment to help fathers achieve success at home and in the workplace, he said.
Robert Lanoue, a partner is corporate strategy at Deloitte and a member of Deloitte Dads, said other companies would benefit from reaching out to fathers in the workplace, as they do mothers. "Managing talent is becoming a top priority for many of my clients," Mr. Lanoue noted. "Helping both new mothers and fathers through this transition is a key strategy for [companies] to make sure that they maintain talent."
Ensuring that working dads don't feel alienated in the corporate world not only retains top employees, it also creates an atmosphere where no one's career is penalized if they have children.