Read the full article at

Fatherhood is not what it used to be. Back in the 1960s, American families relied on a single income, that of the dad, who spent much of his week at work while mom stayed home with the kids. Today, two-thirds of family households depend on two incomes. And the contemporary dad no longer fits neatly into the standard of the married male breadwinner and disciplinarian.

Responses by Brenda Volling

What are the biggest issues facing working dads today?

I think one of the biggest issues facing working fathers particularly with young children is trying to balance their work and family roles. Men often want to be there for their children right after their birth and in their early years, but struggle with balancing their responsibilities as provider and earning an income with their responsibilities as a parent. Women also struggle with these same roles when they are trying to balance work and family roles at a time when children require intensive caregiving. These early years of childhood are also critical for brain development and learning. Children thrive when parents are available to establish affectionate and stimulating relationships that encourage social, intellectual, and language development. We need to do more to help young parents balance their roles so they can do their jobs and parent their children in a manner that benefits the family, children, and the workforce.

How likely is it that men will take advantage of new family leave policies adopted in New York State and elsewhere?

Current research in several Scandinavian countries suggests that whether men will take advantage of family leave policies depends, in general, on the climate and acceptance of parental leave within the workplace. If men feel truly supported that taking leave is an acceptable and expected practice for a father when a baby is born or a child is adopted, then chances are he will take it. Men themselves also have to believe that their parental role and involvement is essential to their family at this time. On the other hand, if men will be ostracized and ridiculed by others at the workplace for taking leave when they should be working, it is very unlikely that you will see men taking leave, even if they wanted to do so.

How can young fathers strike the right balance between career and family?

Paid parental leave would do a lot to help men and women strike the right balance between their career and their family responsibilities. Workplace ethics and policies seem to be stuck in a historical time when men worked and women stayed home to raise children. Demographic trends have changed tremendously and many families have two working parents who are both trying to be responsible workers and parents with little support to do either well.

Anyone who has spent time in a household in the early months after a baby is born knows well the sleepless nights, unpredictable time schedules, and intense demands of a dependent infant. It can be a very stressful period. We would do well to help young parents manage this time with supports in place so that they can eventually return to work in good health and not completely stressed. Ultimately, men and women will remember these acts of kindness and support from their workplace and remain loyal to a company that helps support them in both their career and family life. Once companies begin to offer attractive family policies, whether leave or on-site child care, there will be competition to attract the most talented employees.