Every few months we feature the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community.
This month we are putting a spotlight on a pretty amazing group of dads who do a “deep dive” into their strategies for managing work and family life.
Listening to them we can see there is no one way to structure our lives. This is the new normal for fathers – one where they play an active role in balancing work and family responsibilities. It’s also the new normal for flexibility at our workplaces. Clearly, both dads (and moms and everyone else!) benefit from these changes.
Two parents invent “Shared Care” long before the child was born …
As a college professor, Scott Behson (and author of, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide), works remotely for more than half of his work hours. This allows him the flexibility to manage work and home, and to work around his wife’s career. She is an actress whose work schedule varies, including travel, evenings and weekend work. Scott and his wife discussed Shared Care before having children. Then, once their son was born, they were more easily able to create their shared solution. By doing this, Scott believes. both parents were able to pursue their ideal career goals without sacrificing their active involvement in their son’s life.
A stay at home dad returns to work as a flexing lawyer …
Kevin O’Shea is now a lawyer who manages a demanding schedule at work. Over the past few years however, having a workplace that supported him to work flexibly so he could be home when his children got off the school bus, was very important to him as a single parent. To make up the hours, he worked weekends or at other times that worked around his children’s schedules. Prior to this, Kevin was a stay at home dad for 14 year. When he returned to work, his parents helped him make this change by providing some of the care. Today, his parents are a little older, and now Kevin is the one providing care for his parents.
Two dads learn to push back at “work first” careers
Kipp Jarecke-Cheng is part of a two-dad family. About twelve years into his relationship, he and his partner started talking about having a family. At the time they were both in “work first” jobs – jobs that expected you to put work before the rest of your life. But Kipp knew that when he became a parent he wanted to have plenty of time to be the primary caregiver at home. To do this Kipp realized he needed to find an employer that allowed him to work more flexibly. Soon after they adopted their son, Kipp changed to a job where he spent 60% of his time traveling and 40% of his time working from home. Kipped loved this new arrangement, including how it made it possible for him to manage important household tasks like making dinners and packing lunches. Today they are a family of four and Kipp continues to value the flex that comes with working for a progressive employer. (We are also happy to say that Kevin O’shea and Kipp Jarecke-Cheng are both ThirdPath board members.)
Together they are making change for all fathers …
Lester Spence started his family while still in graduate school. During this time he shared the primary caregiver role with his now ex-wife. While getting his graduate work done, Lester also made time for changing diapers and making meals. Later, he organized his academic schedule around the needs of his family, and once he became a professor he was able to get an even greater level of flexibility. Lester is glad to see progress is being made for a greater number of fathers. Today, his own employer even offers paid paternity leave – something that wasn’t available when Lester’s children were small. But Lester reminds us, even more needs to be done “we need to fight for policies that create a broad safety net for all families.”
For their kids, their relationships AND their own personal growth …
Christopher Persley worked a few decades in education and then moved into school administration until he felt the need to become a stay at home father. When this happened, the family crafted a new solution that worked for everyone, including taking several steps to make sure the solution worked financially. Now, Christopher’s child has started school. This means Christopher has been able to transition back to part time work. He also describes how they have “found a way to juggle everything that is important to us … whether it’s finding time to work out, or clean up, or to have date nights, we value keeping track of things, including meeting once a month to talk about our budget. It does take work, and a lot of balance and flexibility. But for us, it feels like we are making it work and we are very happy with our lives.”
Together they are rewriting history …
As we ended the call we asked two pioneering men who are working hard to make change in the wider-world to share their thoughts.
Doug French is the co-founder of Dad 2.0 Summit, an annual event where dad bloggers meet, learn together, and explore the commercial power of dads online. Doug is a single dad who talked about how he “can’t imagine life without extensive flexibility. My ex and I really share this flex together.” Simply put, Doug finds that flexibility makes lives better, and when employers get this we will all be in a better place.
Brad Harrington, Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family (CWF) then wrapped up the call by sharing a few summary points. When doing this, Brad underscored how there is no one size fits all solution for managing work and family – instead dads (like moms) are finding a wide range of creative solutions. Whether it’s Shared Care, being the primary parent, or pushing back at a “work first” work culture, there are many new options for dads and moms. Next we need to change public policy to catch up with this dynamic new landscape.