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Discussion on: Mama Software Engineering 101: The Essential Guide

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vizanquini profile image
vizanquini

Thanks for that. I’m clearly not a mom, but I employ one, and it makes me a bit sad every time she feels the need to justify some absence midday to attend her kid’s matters (she shouldn’t have to).

What bothers me a bit is that even though this scenario might happen more with single moms, it feels like most employed moms count as single for this aspect. As if the “but I’ve worked all day!” argument is only valid for the dad.
Should I be more understanding if I employ a mom than if I employ a dad? How come the men never have to refuse working late because they have to take care of the children today?
That’s a hard social convention to break and I’d like some help to understand how can I address the issue when I’m “the corporation”.

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sarahrosebuck profile image
Sarah Buckingham Author • Edited on

I think this brings up a really valuable conversation - and I think it's incredibly important to view the other side to fully understand the scope. I'm actually in the middle of a research project through the University of Washington with another professor on working fathers who have children with disabilities and how they manage (or don't) work-life integration. I have found a lot of interesting perspectives from Dads.

There is actually a really great research article I read called "The New Male Mystique" that talks about how the "ideal" man today has the pressure of not only being successful as a financial provider but they are also expected to be more involved with family than before women entered the work field. Additionally, flat earnings, the blur between work-home life (with not only technology like Slack but also now with COVID) and declining job security all create a lot of pressure with Dads. And those pressures are often unspoken of.

So, to answer your question. I would say definitely do not be more understanding for a Mom than a Dad. The pressures are on both sides - it's just that there is very little research done on this topic when it comes to Dads, and men are likely less willing to talk about their feelings and the pressures they are experiencing (another social convention to break). But to address one piece of this (working Moms), you must address the other (working Dads).

So what can you do to address the issue? This is hard because each situation is unique - some men really find their meaning in work and have more of a traditional attitude and some come from a more family-centric attitude, where they'd like to spend less time working and more time with their kids but cannot because of financial responsibilities. That being said, I'll outline a few suggested things you could do - and honestly, it's mostly about the culture you provide:

  1. Ask the Dads on your team! What can you provide for them? Find solutions that tailor towards them and their specific needs in their roles - and continue to evaluate these and make changes as needed (could be part of an onboarding process - normalize it).
  2. Encourage Dad's to work only the hours they are required to work - get rid of the assumption that working long hours makes you more valuable
  3. Create a culture where men are not jeopardized for using flexibility - this can be done by doing setting an example and doing it yourself, or asking them to do it. You can also address how to work more effectively as a team - eliminate unnecessary meetings that could be done through Slack or emails.
  4. Develop a career path that includes flexibility - this makes it feel less impossible for Dads to be able to have promotions. QUALITY > QUANTITY.
  5. Provide opportunities for men to talk about it - at my current job, we have 2 Slack channels we all vent in - #parents (for all the cute kid stuff) and #parents-the-dark-side (for venting, asking for advice, etc.). It might even be beneficial and get more Dad activity if you create one specifically for Dads.

It makes me really excited that you are thinking a lot about this and trying to ensure you're not just addressing one piece of the societal structure but both ends! Your employees are really lucky to have you.