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Modern Parenthood

Pew modern parenthood survey: Fathers caring more – at our house, too

Pew survey gives new picture of the hard work modern parenthood is. Dads are helping out – and worrying – more, just like moms. Pew could be describing our house.

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In our home my husband, a newspaper designer, is paid far more than I, but is out of the house and missing time with our children far more. It’s soul crushing for him. I see it in the hunted look he gets every time our kids hand him a report card to sign or I remark about one of them outgrowing another pair of sneakers.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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“I’m failing them he says,” and I see him withdraw from them daily instead of reaching for them.

Overall, 33 percent of parents with children under age 18 say they are not spending enough time with their children. Fathers are much more likely than mothers to feel this way. Some 46 percent of fathers say they are not spending enough time with their children, compared with 23 percent of mothers.

I work from home and feel I am failing them every time they come to me to chat or get homework help or ask to go to the park while I’m on deadline. I’m with them and not with them. It’s better for my personal feelings to be working from home, but financially it’s crippling us and is a bigger stress than anything I ever felt at the end of a long workweek as a parent.

The study has something to say about that feeling too, “While a nearly equal share of mothers and fathers say they wish they could be at home raising their children rather than working, dads are much more likely than moms to say they want to work full time. And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule.”

They’re playing my song with this study. I initially left my rigid, full-time job and took to freelance writing and doing fill-in work for full-time working women on maternity leave or full-timers on vacation from major publications because I made the choice to seek more flexible employment in order to care for our youngest of four boys who has Asperger’s Syndrome. However, now that Quin is nine and high-functioning as a result of all that flexibility and care, I can’t get a full-time job because too many employers view my path as a résumé full of gaps that assumes I’m unreliable or unsuited to the full-time working world.

Fully 37 percent of today’s working mothers say their ideal situation would be to work full time, up from 21 percent of working mothers in 2007. 

Something I found key in this study was the fact that: “When asked how difficult it is for them to balance the responsibilities of work and family life, 16 percent of working mothers and 15 percent of working fathers say it is very difficult. Overall, 56 percent of working mothers and 50 percent of working fathers say it’s either very or somewhat difficult for them to balance work and family.

Sure we find it difficult, but we are still doing it. As the most overused Friedrich Nietzsche quotation in modern parenting says, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Personally, I prefer Lao Tzu as a modern parenting résumé builder, “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”

The Pew study shows that working dads and moms are mastering others (their children) and themselves as they dig deeper daily to find the kind of determination, confidence, and courage to keep taking care of business.

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