New dads want to be more than breadwinners: study

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - Today’s crop of first-time dads aren’t just relishing in the first smile, steps and laugh of their new bundle of joy.

A man plays with his son during sunrise at Kailua Beach in Kailua, Hawaii in this file photo. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni

These days they are also garnering increased respect and responsibilities in the workplace just for being a new father, according to a study published by the Boston College Center for Work & Family.

During conversations with 33 first-time fathers, researchers probed how these professional men are striking a work-family balance that may have eluded their own fathers a generation ago, when being the breadwinner often meant missing pivotal childhood moments.

“With these young guys, they’re not willing to be robbed of those experiences,” said Brad Harrington, a research professor at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and executive director of the center sponsoring the study.

The research for “The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood within a Career Context” were compiled over a year by Harrington, Fred Van Deusen, a senior research associate with Boston College, and Northeastern University professor Jamie Ladge.

Ladge’s 2007 study on first-time mothers re-entering the workforce helped inspire this fresh look at new dads’ role in the home and office, the researchers said.

With nearly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce now made up by women, and nearly 60 percent of all U.S. bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees awarded to women, Harrington said the changing dynamic of females in the workplace is affecting how men are behaving in a parenting role.

Young people, and especially new fathers, are redefining what it means to be successful and happy, Harrington said.

A solid career trajectory is not the only factor anymore, he said: being a hands-on dad is also topping the list.

In a modern twist, first-time fathers interviewed for the study said that most managers were supportive of their need for flexibility as they adapted to a new schedule at home.

The men also said they enjoyed an enhanced workplace reputation in the eyes of their colleagues, given their new parental role.

The researchers also found that most of these young fathers are still struggling to find a rhythm at home with their wives who also work.

Fathers today, and particularly those in the survey, “have an interest in being more than a hands-off breadwinner,” said Harrington.

The majority of the 33 fathers in the survey saw their own mothers curb their careers to manage the home and family, but don’t expect their wives to take the same break, he said.

That means finding a balance with their equally ambitious and career-minded wives when it comes to activities such as car-pooling, bedtime rituals and cooking.

Harrington said he didn’t notice a gender-type stereotypical division of child rearing duties among the survey participants.

Reporting by Lauren Keiper; editing by Ros Krasny and Patricia Reaney