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What Working Dads Really Want for Father's Day

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on June 15, 2017 10:30 AM

Forget the grill light, beer cap map or Homer Simpson novelty socks. What do working dads really want this Father’s Day?

More time with their families, less stigma around wanting it, and greater support from the workplace.

Here’s what the latest research says about working dads and their struggle to achieve better work-life balance against career goals.  Plus, five ways employers can do more to champion their needs.

Today’s working dads are taking on more child care and household responsibilities than ever before. And while gaps remain in the amount of care and duties that moms vs. dads manage, parenting roles are undoubtedly converging.  Dads are not only taking on more, they’re embracing and becoming comfortable talking about the significance of their roles as caregivers.   

Pew Research Center reports that nearly 60 percent of working dads’ view parenting as extremely important to their identity, and 46 percent report that they spend more time with their children than their fathers did with them. On the flip side, feelings of never getting enough time with their kids, struggling to find work-life balance, and viewing their parenting skills as less than ideal persist, with nearly half of dads saying they feel they don’t spend enough time with their kids, and just 39 percent claiming they feel they’re doing a “very good job” raising their children.

It’s tough for all working parents when only 12% of private sector employees currently have access to some type of paid leave, be it for maternity, paternity or any other family care situation.  And most employers don’t – or can’t afford – to offer the ideal, gender-neutral paid leave policies that larger companies like Starbucks, Twitter, Etsy, and others do.

But here are five ways employers can address the working dad dilemma at their organizations right now:

1. Work to lessen stigma associated with men as caregivers
Roughly 60% of married couples with children under 18 are now dual-income households in the U.S. – and our social conventions and customs are changing as a result.  But are workplace norms keeping up with these changes? Many men feel there is still stigma attached to showing their caregiver side at work.  In fact, like moms, dads that take caregiving leave or openly talk about their caregiving responsibilities report suffering negative work outcomes, or feel that they are treated poorly by co-workers. Whether it’s stigma over utilizing paternity leave, or fear that if they utilize flex time or work more balanced hours they’ll be overlooked for advancement,  outdated workplace attitudes and policies are inhibiting working dads from more fully embracing their dad identity.   

RELATED: Five Things You Need to Know About Dads at Work

2.  Foster a workplace culture of dads supporting dads
Both men and women need to champion one another and their needs as working parents, but there’s nothing like the example, advice and insight of fellow dads.  The importance of working dads actively demonstrating the value of family is even more important in a leadership context. Mark Zuckerberg got unprecedented buzz, and with great reason, when he announced he was taking two months leave following the birth of his daughter.  He then followed up with regular status updates about his role as a new dad – complete with stroller pics. The message couldn’t have been louder at Facebook - and all over the world.  Working dads shouldn’t hide from or alter their desire to put family at the forefront – and openly talk about this choice, and neither should employers.  

3.  Continue the fight for greater work-life balance, but also better work-life integration
Working dads are struggling with work-life balance. According to the study, The New Millennial Dad, 75 percent of participants listed work-life balance as “very important to extremely important” when selecting a new employer, while another Ernst & Young survey showed that 67 percent of dads would change jobs to better manage work and family responsibilities.  But more dads than moms also feel that work should take priority in life, and being committed to their personal lives prohibits them from being fully committed at work.   Offering child care benefits is one step in helping parents manage the work-life juggle.  But working to actively shift workplace attitudes, practices and policies, to better support the multi-faceted caregiver identity helps promote healthier work-life integration. 

RELATED: The Best Places for Dads to Work and What You Can Learn From Them

4.  Usher out old-school ideas about career advancement
Nearly 40 percent of Millennial dads surveyed for The New Millennial Dad, fear that refusing a promotion or transfer will seriously hurt their careers. Many also believe the best employees are available 24/7 (nearly 40 percent), and that working 50+ hours a week is the only way to get ahead (nearly 50 percent).  Until employers offer clear tracks for advancement where policies and demonstrated practice prove otherwise, in addition to supportive work cultures where work-life balance is valued, these feelings and traditional assumptions won’t change.  Organizations can also do more to help dads develop and plan personal career growth in a way that acknowledges and supports their individual career and home-life goals.

5.  Let dads talk about the issues they face – when and where they feel comfortable
Providing an outlet for working dads to talk about the issues they face – in a way that fits for them – is an important piece of the puzzle.  Get to know the working dads at your organization through online surveys or quick polls, dad mentorship programs, or informal office chats. Regularly share and promote resources for support groups, parenting classes, or benefits and perks that will improve work-life balance, and simply, keep the office door and the conversation open.  

The voice of the working dad is critical to the evolution of our modern workplace, and integral to the growth and success of our working moms, too.  Understanding working dads’ struggles and needs is the first step.  Radically shifting workplace norms, policies and benefits to best support them is the goal.

And Homer Simpson novelty socks just might help along the way.

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.