New Normal//

Stepping up as Dad

Fatherhood, the lockdown and an evolving mindset

Photo by Jonas Kakaroto/ Unsplash
Photo by Jonas Kakaroto/ Unsplash

Last week, as I started logging in to Zoom for a leadership coaching session, I got a message from my client to say he is finishing up the dishes and giving his son a quick snack, hence will need about 10 minutes to dial in. This resonates with a number of my other male clients who over the last few months of the varying stages of lockdown have been juggling between the responsibilities of work, fatherhood and life from home. 

While for some of them this is modus operandi on any given day, for a number of them this being equally responsible at work and at home is one of the new realities that COVID brings.

Despite the increase in women in the workforce, studies indicate that the bulk of the responsibility of the home and childcare still rests with the women. 

A recent Harvard Business Review article indicates that women in the paid workforce do twice as much at home than their male partners. A quick conversation with any working mom or mom, in general, lends itself to a long list of frustrations that their partner isn’t doing quite enough of the “unpaid” work and the onus falls largely on them to manage it. 

According to a Talking Talent report that surveyed 1000 working parents born between 1956-2000 across 5 Asia Pacific countries including India, fathers who took extended parental leave found it detrimental to their careers, which resulted in 54% of fathers returning earlier than they would have liked. 68% of fathers felt professional pressures negatively impacted their ability to be a parent, while, 57% of fathers suffered from parental guilt of not spending enough time at home. 

While a number of organisations lend support to mothers as they make the transition to becoming a parent, the mental health challenges faced by fathers remains largely overlooked or dismissed. This results in them suffering in silence and as a result not being able to provide the requisite support for the career progression of women. 

In my own practice, I have witnessed the struggle of a number of new dads who have found becoming a parent particularly challenging, as well as male leaders who suffer from ongoing guilt of not doing enough as a parent. While some of them shy away, fear or feel overwhelmed by the transition to parenting, others find that they are reasonably ill-equipped to take on their life’s most important role.    

The COVID diaries of most of these fathers have turned the tables quite quickly and any cultural or mindset barriers have had to be surpassed almost overnight. While isolation, fear, overwhelm and uncertainty continue to be challenges that dads face during work from home, the importance of men as “allies” has never been more relevant. From helping with housework, to taking over the online schooling, to de-prioritising their life and work for their partner and child, to indulging in more of the “unpaid” work, dads have had to seriously step up during the pandemic. And about time they did!

So, this Father’s Day as men look to Step Up As Dad, here are some recommendations from our leadership coaching practise  as they look to embrace the evolving mindset:

  1. Do your bit, and not just for the lockdown.
  2. Leave defensiveness at the door and allow receptiveness to enter
  3. Be purposeful in prioritizing family and childcare, and cherish these moments and memories. They are yours to keep.
  4. Be open to a domestic performance review and work actively to make improvements
  5. Be authentic and transparent about your fears and your challenges because you need support too
  6. There is no perfecting parenting, so don’t beat yourself up or just give up over failings
  7. Take the opportunity to deepen your relationships through building a connection and improving communication at home
  8. Make it fun, after all this is your child/children and your family
  9. Be kind to yourself, appreciate your partner and show your family how much you value them 
  10. Remember, the new normal is what you make it

Times of uncertainty provide a wonderful opportunity to show those closest to us how much they mean in our lives. So, this Father’s Day make that commitment and take that step forward to being the best Dad you can be!

A Happy Father’s Day to all!

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