A father’s day gift
By Lisa Levey
This Father’s Day, instead of a tie, a new shirt, or a watch, know that the best present you can give your man is the room to develop into the father he wants to be.
Full immersion during the earliest days and months of their child’s life provides women with an in-depth parenting tutorial. Supporting dads to also create routine “dad time” becomes an equally powerful way for men to learn and build their competence as caregivers.
While conducting research for my book The Libra Solution: Shedding Excess and Redefining Success at Work and at Home, one mom described how her husband was more successful than she in helping her infant to become a better sleeper. Despite multiple attempts on her part, it was during one of her business trips when her daughter learned to sleep through the night.
In another conversation, a mom’s story highlighted the power of becoming parenting partners: She was growing increasingly frustrated with her toddler son who repeatedly demanded she get him new pants when the ones he tried on were too small. Her son broke down and ran to his father who gently suggested the boy was sad because his pants no longer fit. The mom noticed, “It made me relax to watch my husband have more compassion with my son’s emotions. I am constantly adapting my idea of what parenting is based on by what I try, what my husband tries, and what seems to work.”
I’ll never forget the night when my husband discovered the magic of the vacuum cleaner. Our younger son was a borderline colicky infant, sometimes crying without stop for more than an hour, and nothing seemed to help. One night I came home from having dinner with a friend and my husband was triumphant. He explained that after trying all the tricks up his sleeve to calm our son—feeding, changing, rocking, singing—he remembered hearing the sound of a vacuum cleaner can sometimes help. He decided to give it a try and as if by magic, he flipped the on switch and in mere seconds our son stopped crying, relaxed and soon fell asleep.
Sociologists have a term—maternal gate keeping—for mothers seeking to control the parenting terms of engagement. Researchers have found that the mother’s encouragement—or discouragement—directly impacts how involved fathers are in caring for their children. Understandably, ongoing discouragement moves dads to pull back and robs them of the opportunity to learn and grow as parents. In contrast, when fathers are given the space to parent in the way that feels natural for them, children, men, and families all benefit.
(This article first appeared on RoleReboot.org - June 15, 2012.)
This year we’ve been focusing on how work can be redesigned for men, women and leaders. Now it’s time to look at why this approach is so important.
What do you enjoy making time for?
Here’s just a few of the things we’ve heard our ThirdPath community members enjoy making time for:
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-Holding my baby.
-Taking a walk with my aging mother.
-Becoming an educated voter.
-Going on a date.
-Shopping, cooking dinner and eating a meal with my loved ones.
-Being a volunteer.
-Going on my child’s school trip.
-Staying in shape and exercising
-Visiting my uncle in the hospital.
-Exploring the world and traveling.
-Furthering my education.
-Caring for my sick child.
-Preparing for a marathon.
-Hanging out with my teenager and hear how his day was at school.
Yes – we need to work … and many of us enjoy our work … but let’s create thriving organizations that also support full and active lives outside of work.
And when we do this, it turns out it isn’t just good for us, it’s also about supporting wider change for all of us.
It’s also about creating gender equity at the workplace — for women AND men. Working together we can create thriving organizations that also support thriving families.
Improving our health — Pushing back at the epidemic of overwork is better for everyone — across the economic spectrum and across the lifecycle.
And it’s even about improving our environment — Helping people find effective alternatives to a long commute in their cars will lower stress and improve our environment.
Send us your stories - we want to hear how you have organized your life to create time for work AND the pursuit of happiness. What’s worked well? What have you been struggling with? What do you believe is the best answer for our workplaces, families and the communities we live in?
Choose your path, old rules or new rules….
Recently Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, announced she was putting a moratorium on working remotely.
Prior to this, Sheryl Sandburg COO of Facebook, and author of the soon to be released book “Lean In” explained that in order for women to succeed at work, instead of “pulling back” in their careers women should “lean in.”
Instead of “leaning into” the old rules … don’t we want to create organizations where both men and women can follow new rules?.
Given all the recent press on the “old rules” we thought it was important to remind ourselves why things can be done differently. This year we’ve been examining the 5 mandates for change Anne-Marie Slaughter outlined in her Atlantic article. To improve on the mandates we added “men and women” to each one.
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Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
(1) Men and Women Changing the Culture of Face Time …
On our October Thursday call three employees – two men and one woman – all for very different reasons described how they were able to work remotely. All of them also discussed how their work had improved because of their ability to work remotely. (To listen to the call click here.)
(2) Men and Women Redefining the Arc of a Successful Career …
On our January Thursday call we spoke with three male leaders who run organizations that support an integrated approach from entry level to executive level. Not only can these organizations attract and retain the best employees, click here to listen to the tape of the call to hear each leader discuss how this approach brings unique value to their clients.
(3) Men and Women Revaluing Family Values …
During our March Thursdays with ThirdPath calls we are exploring why men are as interested in rewriting the rules as women.
On Thursday 3/21 you can join us to hear two very different stories from two dads who redesigned their work so they could share in the care of their children.
This call is open to everyone, just click on the below link at 12:30pm on Thursday 3/21 to join us. (The call runs from 12:30 to 1:30pm ET.)
YES! Let’s create a movement for change and truly become an innovation nation.
Let’s do this by having men and women – especially male and female leaders – model integrated career paths.
Lets dream even bigger….
The book, “Time Off with Baby: The Case for Paid Care Leave“, provides a thorough analysis of the benefits of providing mothers and fathers the right to paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a baby. It asks and answers the question:
“What do babies need during the first year of life, and what role does public policy have in promoting the likelihood they will get it?”
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“Although the responsibility for a baby’s care clearly rests primarily with parents, public policy has a role in ensuring that parents have real choices.”
Nearly 30 years ago, the authors wrote “current U.S. policy supports neither high- quality infant day care nor alternatives such as paid leaves for infant care.” Today, because of the number of employees not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, the absence of wage replacement, and the lack of quality standards for child care, that is still largely true.”
“Given the high cost of infant care and the difficulties in providing safe and healthy care, providing real alternatives, such as a partially paid leave for a portion of the first year of a baby’s life, looks like both a bargain and a wise investment.”
The book makes an excellent case for this important and critically needed change in public policy.
But what if we dreamed even bigger. What if we created integrated solutions, not just for the first year, but across our entire career-lifecycle? When we asked the members of our Pioneering Leaders group what makes them most proud around their integrated career paths, here’s what they had to say:
Father of two children, ages 16 and 20. “Our ability to keep on adjusting. Everything’s changed from season to season. We’ve created a lot of teamwork as we just keep on adjusting to the latest change.”
Father of two children, ages 16 and 19. “We’ve both been able to have careers, but we’ve also been able to build in a lot of stability in our children’s lives. They are both deeply connected to the community where they grew up.”
Father of two children, ages 6 and 8. “I ask people, ‘Who is behind the door, who is the person you can turn to when you are having one of those horrible days with your children.’ My wife is that person for me.”
Father of two children, ages 34 and 36, and grandfather of two children, ages 7 and 5. “I like that we’ve created a strong network of care. My daughter is going to be traveling for a week, so this week I’ll be doing extra grandpa duty. We’ve created strong relationships with our children.”
Yes, any step to improve public policy in this country will be useful.
But maybe we can also harness the energy of progressive leaders – or the positive energy of the Dad 2.0 conference we just attended – to help us dream even bigger and create a nation that truly promotes an integrated approach to work and the care of our families from birth through elder care.
Are we willing to trade profit for greater life satisfaction?
A recent Thursday with ThirdPath call involved several inspirational leaders. Each one has founded, or is part of the senior leadership team, of an organization that supports an integrated approach to work and life from top to bottom. It’s no coincidence they are small business owners. ThirdPath has seen that this is where innovation around these issues is transpiring most rapidly. It’s also no coincidence that they learned a lot from trying to “walk the talk” themselves. Being an “integrated leader” – a leader who has been successful at work while also carving out time for their lives outside of work – isn’t easy.
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But what you might not have thought about … is how the different approach these leaders are modeling is also linked to managing a “reasonable” bottom line.
Instead of creating organizations that rely on extreme performance goals to succeed, these leaders are following a very different path.
Clearly we need thriving organizations in order to offer flexibility. What these leaders also teach us is “enough is enough.” Instead of creating organizations that require excessive work hours in order to meet inflated bottom lines, they have created thriving organizations that support people to be successful at work AND successful in their lives outside of work.
Below is what Tony Doniger had to say on the topic. He’s one of the leaders who joined the call. This is an excerpt from an article Tony wrote for the Boston Bar Journal, “A Different Measure of Success.” (March/April 2008)
A good deal has been written about contentment, stress, dissatisfaction and disillusion in the legal profession [and other professions as well, ThirdPath would argue!]. For better or for worse, many lawyers and most large and mid-size law firms often measure their success not on a happiness or contentment index but against a monetary standard. Earnings — or “profit per partner” — is the currency with which firms compete for rankings on the all important The American Lawyer charts.
To improve these monetary rankings firms do things that are harmful to the profession and bad for lawyers.
One way to increase profit per partner is to limit the number of partners who count in the equation. However, with fewer people making partner, it is of course harder for diversity milestones to be achieved as there are fewer openings in the partnership ranks for anyone. On the revenue side, the pursuit of ever increasing revenues by definition imposes greater pressures on associates (and all lawyers). The result, of course, is that lawyers have less time for professional and other non-billable activities.
In addition, mergers and acquisitions have increased markedly over the last decade. The cost of these transitional events is not insignificant. Indeed, at the annual Boston Bar Association Leadership Retreat, a large percentage of the attorneys present had personally experienced such an event, finding it stressful and resulting in a solution that was less optimal from the perspective of contentment, though perhaps more profitable.
In the end, we need to ask when enough is enough.
Should we be willing to trade some profit or growth in profit for greater satisfaction? Surely it is okay to make a little less next year (or not make more) and take on some new professional or pro bono activities, or yes, even personal activities (there’s nothing wrong with hiking the Appalachian Trail).
There is much we can do to improve our professional and personal lives, our pro bono and bar work, our efforts to improve access to justice, if only we would emphasize alternative measures of success.
This alternative approach isn’t just for professional workers … Read the excellent New York Times article, “How Costco Became the Anti-Walmart.” It describes Jim Sinegal’s progressive approach at Costco Wholesale.
Want to learn more? Tune back next month and we’ll have the tape of the call posted on our website.