with Avi Spivack
Hi, I'm Avi, and I try to put the work and the dad together, with mild success. This is all about trying to give you a view from what it looks like on the dad-man's side of the world, and I hope you find my ruminations humorous because I try not to take myself too seriously.
Nataly here at Work it, Mom! launched a very intriguing discussion on the topic of “hiding” your motherhood (and fatherhood) in the workplace, as well as whether working mothers (and fathers) should be entitled to additional flexibility with their jobs. Charlene over at JobMom even posed a direct question back to both Nataly and myself:
How many dads are hiding their fatherhood at work?
I will start my response with a related anecdote: I work in a high-octane/start-up/techie environment. We are knowingly under-staffed, and it was recently and excitedly announced that we would be hiring a new woman into our group; in our team meeting, everyone was happy. A shocking moment came when I asked a (childless) colleague - who had interviewed this new employee - what she thought of the incoming woman, and she said: “She talked about her kid too much. I didn’t want to know about her family, I just wanted to know if she could do this job.”
The colleague that said this knew that I have a young daughter, but I am certain she felt that because I am “just” the Dad, I would perhaps not be offended by this reaction, which implies work and family don’t mix. But I was royally surprised by her response and I definitely felt sympathy for my incoming colleague who may likely have to fight for flexibility - both with management as well as with the impressions of her colleagues - so she can manage her work/life juggling act with her toddler son.
To directly answer Charlene’s question: I have never hidden the fact that I am a father at my job; in fact, I have done the opposite. I not only pursued jobs where I knew management had kids; I also stated from day one that I plan to be highly involved in my daughter’s life, stay home with her when she is sick, and leave early as necessary. If my company is unwilling to allow me this flexibility, I will find another company that respects my priorities. And so far, it’s worked out - I can work from home as needed and no one has objected to my somewhat flexible schedule. The caveat, of course, is what Nataly pointed out: I think you must be a well-regarded employee and that you must “earn” workplace respect before you can truly embrace a more flexible schedule. I work with a number of parents, and when I see emails from them saying they will be at home with their sick children or need to leave early to pick them up from school, I completely relate. But I can almost hear the grunts, as some colleagues say “He/she is going to be out again“?
I do think there frequently exists an unspoken disdain, or at least undercurrent of tension, between childless workers and parent-workers, and I can also understand that side: Why does he/she get to skip work again, just because he/she has a child? And for employers, it’s very difficult to manage this co-existence of workers. But beyond that, I also believe that because I am the Dad and not the Mom, I doubt myself less and have much less of a problem taking whatever time I need.
I still wonder what my female colleague would have said about me, had I spoken of my daughter in my interview - would she think I would be a less stellar employee simply because I wanted to open up about my family?
More to come on this topic, for sure, but please sound off.
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