Working Fathers Choose Life in the Slow Lane

father and daughter hugging.

Back in 2012, Millennial men in a Wharton study expressed skepticism about becoming future fathers, saying they believed the demands of modern jobs made it unlikely that family lives could fit with work.

Five years later they are indeed having children, but they're adjusting the ground rules to make work fit their lives.

"I didn't CARE about prestige anymore!" declared former entertainment executive Travis Chambers in a LinkedIn post about choosing the slow lane in order to be able to invest in his role as a dad. "I didn't care about my importance, my relevance, my title, my pedigree, all I cared about was providing for my sweet girl and making her happy, and that complete paradigm shift generated abundance and prestige that I never would have achieved in another decade of my glam Hollywood job." The sentiment apparently struck a chord; the post was liked nearly seven-thousand times.

Working Fathers: Shifting Gears on Both Sides of the Pond

And Mr. Travis' story isn't unique. A sampling of dad stories from a BBC article about our Modern Family Index (MFI):

  • "I have had numerous opportunities to work abroad but I declined them so I could be a part of my daughter's life as she grows up."
  • "I jumped off the career ladder about five or six years ago - a decision taken with my wife to effectively swap roles; she'd worked part-time since the first of our two sons was born."
  • "Nearly three years ago I changed jobs. I took a pay cut purely for the reason of getting a better work-life balance and importantly to spend more time with my two kids. It is a move that I have not regretted."
  • "If you are not focused on your career, then you will get no increase or not the amount that would be needed. If you are focused just on your career you will miss beautiful moments with your child."

The New Working Father

The narratives fit with what working dads on both side of the Atlantic told our MFI: that they're willing to downshift for jobs that allow them to flourish as fathers as well as professionals.

They also fit with the larger Wharton predictions about Millennial fathers; that they'll have more freedom to choose personally meaningful career paths versus merely those dictated by gender stereotypes; and that they'll do so at the peril of employers who aren't paying attention.

"Organizations have many routes for helping Millennials while adding to their bottom line" wrote study author Stew Friedman in his 2012 book, Baby Bust, calling out child care and flexibility as essential responses.

"Smart organizations have already recognized that they benefit from doing so through increased productivity, engagement, health, and retention of talent."
Dad dropping his infant son off at employer-sponsored child care

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Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

August 1, 2021

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.