Men who want to have an active role in childrearing have been discovering the limits of the workplace again and again in recent decades—specifically, it’s really hard to be there for your kids and not take a hit at work. Sucks, doesn’t it?
The BBC reports that the limits of paternity leave and flexible office schedules still haven’t caught up with a modern, evolved father’s desire to shoulder his half of the childcare workload. A recent study from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee restates these now old complaints:
“Workplace policies have not kept up with the social changes in people’s everyday lives,” according to committee chair Maria Miller, who describes “outdated assumptions” about men’s and women’s roles in relation to work and childcare” as a further barrier to change.
The research indicates that over half of young fathers in the UK would like to step back from work to prioritize family life. Like, actually being there when their kid is growing up. The committee has recommended some changes that could be widely adopted in the workplace to (finally) address the issue, such as better paternity pay and at least 12 weeks leave offered to a new father.
Could this finally be the report that does it? Regulating mandatory paid paternity leave would be a huge step in changing expectations on paper, but as the cautionary tale of a dad named Richard shows, that won’t necessarily change workplace culture. Richard told the BBC that he indulged in the rules implemented by the UK government in 2015, which allowed parents to split paternal leave, and returned to a hostile employer:
“I came back to a load of photocopying,” says tax specialist Richard Cahill of his return to work at a major international company after the birth of his second child.
“Basically they wanted to make the point that they weren’t happy with me,” he says of his former employers.
Richard eventually left in search of a more understanding work environment, and found his desire to be available to pick up his kids from school was often questioned on interviews; people wanted to know where his wife was in the afternoons. We’ll know the culture has finally shifted when no one wonders why mom isn’t doing it.