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Fathers at work: An examination of men’s work-family experiences

By Natasha Stecy-Hildebrandt

Individuals’ careers and working lives are profoundly affected by family and care responsibilities. Increasingly, it is parents of both genders who struggle with balancing their work and home lives, particularly as there is increasing convergence in the ways women and men spend their time (Marshall 2006). However, we know less about fathers’ specific experiences with how family affects work and career development.

Past sociological research has found both work-related benefits and disadvantages for men with children. In terms of benefits, fathers have been found to accrue a “fatherhood wage premium” (Glauber 2008; Hodges and Budig 2010). Other research has found that fathers are evaluated negatively when they accommodate their work demands to their care demands (for example, by taking advantage of leave and flexibility policies) (Wayne and Cordeiro 2003). Men with children also risk mistreatment and harassment at work, particularly when they are highly involved at home (Berdahl and Moon 2013). This research demonstrates the importance of considering family status and its impact on fathers’ work and career/job mobility.

Part of my ongoing doctoral research is to examine how family responsibilities shape fathers’ work lives. In interviews with fathers in a manufacturing company who are in diverse career and family stages, I examine whether they would be in a different place career-wise if their family situations were different, how family life has affected their work, the overall feelings of balance fathers are able to strike between their work and family responsibilities and whether they perceive their involvement with family life to be stigmatized at work.

Implications of this research for career development include improved understanding of this area and how it relates to family development, especially for fathers, who are an under-studied demographic. In terms of career counselling, conceptualizing career development as a process intertwined with family development can also help individual workers to think strategically about long-term career and family planning, how these relate to one another, and how they influence each other differently over the life course.

Understanding how fathers navigate their care demands in the workplace can also help organizations facilitate the balancing of these different spheres. This has important implications for worker retention. Furthermore, when organizations maintain an eye towards career planning over the long-term, anticipating when individuals’ workforce participation might wax and wane due to changes in family responsibilities, they can better help employees manage transitions into and out of different non-work roles and work-related levels of involvement. Succession planning may also benefit from understanding the increasing demands on young parents’ time.


Berdahl, Jennifer L., and Sue H. Moon. 2013. “Workplace mistreatment of middle class workers based on sex, parenthood, and caregiving.” Journal of Social Issues 69(2): 341-366.

Glauber, R. 2008. “Race and gender in families and at work the fatherhood wage premium”. Gender & Society22(1), 8-30.

Hodges, M.J. & M.G. Budig. 2010. “Who Gets the Daddy Bonus?: Organizational Hegemonic Masculinity and the Impact of Fatherhood on Earning”. Gender and Society 24(6), 717-74.

Marshall, Katherine. 2006. “Converging Gender Roles”. Perspectives 5-17.

Wayne, Julie H. and Bryanne L. Cordeiro. 2003. “Who is a Good Organizational Citizen? Social Perception of  Male and Female Employees who use Family Leave”. Sex Roles 49(5/6): 233-246.


  1. April 19, 2016, 8:12 pm   / 

    Just a little confused, why does it say by Natasha Stecy-Hildebrandt if it’s your post Karolina. At any rate, good topic. We always think of career interruptions and work/life balance issues in terms of mothers rather than fathers. I would add another factor to the mix – fathers of children with disabilities. I had the privilege of developing a workshop outline for the Father Involvement in Children with Disabilities project. The multiple demands faced by these fathers in terms of work hours, sharing childcare with their partner and taking their child to medical appointments are challenging and require understanding, flexibility on the part of the employer.

    • April 20, 2016, 9:25 am   / 

      Hi Denise – I posted the article on behalf of Natasha so the post was under my name. I have changed the author to “CERIC” to avoid any future confusion. The Father Involvement in Children with Disabilities Project sounds interesting. Is there information online about it for people who may want to learn more?

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