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Books

Working Fathers: New Strategies for Balancing Work and Family (Harvest Book). James A. Levine, Todd L. Pittinsky. (Harvest Books, 1998)

The Second Shift. Arlie Hochschild. (Avon Books, 1997)

Organizations

American Coalition for Fathers and Children

At-Home Dad Network

Bay Area Male Involvement Project

Children's Rights Council

Families and Work Institute.

Father-to-Father/FatherNet

The Fatherhood Project/Families and Work Institute

Fatherhood USA/SCETV

HandsNet

Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Revitalization

Men's Health Network

National Center for Fathering

National Center for Strategic Non-Profit Development and Community Leadership

National Center on Fathers and Families

National Fatherhood Initiative

National Fathers' Network

National Partnership for Women and Families
 
National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families

Slowlane.com


Jim Levine is a juggler. Not the circus kind, but the day-in-day-out, multiple-responsibility-in-a-short-period-of-time kind, helping working parents lead balanced and productive lives. He’s Director of The Fatherhood Project at the Families and Work Institute (www.familiesandwork.org), a research and education project examining the future of fatherhood and developing ways to support men’s involvement in child rearing; he conducts a series of workshops presenting practical strategies to support fathers and mothers in their parenting roles; and he runs James Levine Communications, Inc. (www.jameslevine.com), a literary agency. We spoke at his home in New York City about the differences between men and women and the future of work for us all.

Conner: How are the issues different for mothers and fathers when it comes to balancing work and home life?

Levine: What’s interesting is that both men and women are struggling with this issue in remarkably similar percentages, but the big difference is that women tend to talk about this when men keep it silent. It’s what I call an “Invisible Dilemma.” Women tend to have recognition and peer group support—recognition from friends and family that this has to be a big issue in their lives. They’re more comfortable expressing the need for support and receiving it.

Let me give you a couple of facts to substantiate this. When the Families and Work Institute runs the National Study of the Changing Workforce, which is the most comprehensive study on the American workforce that runs every five years, the study found in 1992 that 60% of working mothers experienced significant work/family conflict, but it also found that so did 60% of working fathers. In 1997 when we re-ran the survey, we found that the number had jumped to 70% for working mothers, but also to 70% for working fathers.

The work/family conflict is a real issue for men and women in surprisingly similar percentages of the population. It’s just that we have a magazine called Working Mother devoted to this particular issue. If you say “working mother,” it’s assumed there is conflict. There’s a tension between those worlds. If you say working father, people assume it’s a redundancy. Men work, so what’s the big deal; fathers work, that’s what they’re supposed to do. And there’s not an assumption that they have any similar conflict. Our research, both quantitative and qualitative, is suggesting that indeed they do.

Conner: How are some of those issues played out specifically as it relates at home?

Levine: What we’ve seen happen over the last 30 years is that women still do, about on average, an hour more per day of housework than men do. Working mothers do an hour more per day than working fathers do and working mothers do on average an hour more per day with the kids than working fathers do. When people report this and talk about the presumed wide difference between what women do and what men do at home, for instance, my friend and colleague, Arlie Hochschild, talks about The Second Shift, she and others have looked at very old data and then not reported fully all of the data. If you factor in not just who’s doing what at home, but how much more time working fathers are spending on work outside the home, on average they spend two hours more per day outside the home. So, the total number of hours spent on the stuff you have to do to take care of a family, working and caring for stuff at home, the total number of hours is actually about the same for mothers and fathers.

And, over the last thirty years we have seen men’s participation in both housework and childcare has increased and women’s have stayed at about the same.

Conner: What has then really increased is the amount of additional work that men are doing?

Levine: My hunch is that probably men are doing more both outside the home and inside the home.

Conner: So that’s the rest of the story that isn’t being reported today.

Levine: Right.

Conner: Well, what are some of the workplace things men can do to advocate for more time or for more balance?

Levine: The invisible dilemma is that men face the very real problem that they don’t feel comfortable bringing these issues up and they tend not to be acknowledged at work. So, the first step is to make the dilemma visible. That is, you have to put it on the table. I don’t think this is a matter of bad employers out there who are not recognizing it. My recommendation is to make it everybody’s responsibility. I think fathers are responsible. I think employers are responsible. I think mothers and wives are responsible.

Let me show you how that plays out. Employee fathers need to step up to the plate and put their family needs on the table. That can be done in ways that won’t jeopardize their jobs. What I typically get when I do these seminars for big corporations on what I call “Daddy’s Stress/Daddy’s Success®” some guys will say, “Well, you know, they would never allow that here.” And I’ll say, “Well who? Who is ‘they?’ Is it the CEO, the chairman, the CFO, your boss?” It’s not just they. It turns out that it’s this assumption. It’s what I call “blaming the culture.” And so, what happens is that men too often blame the culture and assume that their workplace won’t be responsive without ever asking and challenging the workplace. The first step is to start by having a discussion with your boss. In my book, Working Fathers, there are also very specific guidelines about how to do this.

Conner: Great. What’s next?

Levine: Second, if you’re the boss, just because they don’t ask doesn’t mean your employees don’t have needs. Men are reluctant to talk about this. So, just because your employees are not bringing this issue up doesn’t mean that they are not having these issues. We found that when people put this issue on the table, it turns out that men acknowledge the issue, and employers and employees can work out solutions just as working mothers do.

The third is that moms are culpable or have responsibility for this in the following way. I had lunch with an editor six months ago who said to me, “I wish you’d come in and do one of those seminars at my husband’s company.” And I said, “Why?” She said, “Well, every time he gets sick, every time our child gets sick, I’m the one that has to stay home.” And I said, “Why?” She said, “Because his company wouldn’t allow him to stay home. He can’t get off from work at his company.” And I said, “How do you know? Did you ever ask him?” And she said, “No.” We just assumed it was the case. She assumed it was the case. They never discussed it.

You’ve got unwitting collusion. She then reinforces the dominant cultural norm, which is that when baby gets sick mom is the one that’s got to stay home. Let dad stay out when babies are sick. There’s no reason for women not to have a conversation and say to their husbands, “You know, I can’t stay out. You have to talk to your boss. I can’t be the one that’s always staying out.” More and more couples are having this negotiation or discussion, but I’m still amazed at the number who aren’t and where the cultural norm sort of kicks in and they just assume that mom’s got to be the one who stays home, not dad. Putting this very simply, dads have to ask their employers, employers have to ask their male employees, moms have to ask their husbands, and none of us can assume that men don’t have work/family conflict, or that men can’t help be part of the solution.

Conner: It sounds like everyone is blaming the culture without us actually speaking up and talking about the issues.

Levine: That’s exactly my whole premise. Everybody blames the culture without taking responsibility. This isn’t rocket science. Many of these things are solvable. It’s a matter of putting them on the table and having a discussion. I’m not saying every work situation is changeable, but far more are than not. But, they’re never going to change if people don’t act like adults and say, “We’ve got this issue. Let’s talk about how we’re going to solve it.”

Conner: And, it’s not an issue of taking off everyday, but it’s a finding the balance, of finding ways to do what you need to do.

Levine: Right.

Conner: My last questions, then, is what does this change hold for the future? If we’re not blaming that culture, what does this mean in terms of work? Do we really get a more balanced and welcoming climate? What’s the world we’ll have when we are all talking about this openly?

Levine: You know, I’ve been looking at this for a long time. My first book came out in 1975. So, I’ve been looking at this, considering the research, for thirty years. And I’m seeing more change now than I’ve ever seen over the last thirty years. It doesn’t mean that things are going to change dramatically or overnight, but the fact that working fathers are becoming part of the public discussion, the fact that a magazine like yours is saying we’ve got to pay attention to this, the fact that all these companies are starting to invite me in to do seminars... Last week I worked with Pfizer, before that Merrill Lynch. I just got a call from Credit Swiss First Boston. I’ve done my seminars with Microsoft, IBM, Texas Instruments, AOL Time Warner, and a while back, American Express. I don’t do any marketing on this stuff, but with the word of mouth, it just gets around. Clearly, this issue is coming to the floor. The way I look to put it is, “The revolution is not yet upon us, but we have to recognize this really gives an evolution.”

Conner: Evolution, not revolution.

Levine: Right. We’re in the midst of an evolution, not a revolution. A lot of people get impatient with the pace of change. I was impatient thirty years ago when I began working on this issue. I thought I’d write one book and the world would change overnight.

I’ve learned that these are very complex issues and that we’re working with fundamental issues in our lives—the relationship between men and women, husbands and wives, employees and organizations—and you know, all these interlocking pieces don’t change right away, but a lot of the pieces are starting to add up. Women’s increased opportunities, salary opportunities in the workplace, men exchanging ideas and aspirations about themselves, and corporations finally beginning to realize that they can’t keep this artificial divide between people’s home and work lives. They’ve really got to recognize that all of us bring some of our family issues to work and our work home. Unless we take a more holistic view of this, we’re never going to be able to recruit and retain the best people. If you want to be competitive, you’ve got to realize that people have a family life, and you’ve got to respond to it.

Conner: That’s all people; men and women.

Levine: Absolutely.

James Levine is founder and Director of the Fatherhood Project, the longest-running national initiative on fatherhood (founded in 1981) and currently part of Families and Work Institute. If you have a questions regarding The Fatherhood Project or are interested in having a workshop on Daddy Stress/Daddy Success® delivered to your organization, contact him at jlevine@familiesandwork.org.

Marcia Conner is editor in chief of Learning in the New Economy eMagazine (LiNE Zine), CEO of Learnativity.com, and speaks to organizations each year about how learning influences life. Learn more about her at www.marciaconner.com.

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