Can dads have it all? Dads grapple with work-life balance as pandemic winds down

When Maxime Corbet’s wife had a baby during the pandemic, their lives got a whole lot busier.

The Montreal-area product manager found himself handling daycare pick-ups and, on rare occasions when childcare wasn’t available, caring for his now-aged daughter. 18 months while working from home, while his wife worked as a nurse at the hospital.

“I would tell my colleagues that I might not be 100% available, Corbet said.

“I was doing my best, but (the baby) wouldn’t let me work. She would like to come see me and do stuff with me while I was working on Excel. When she took a nap, I worked. Most days I worked late at night when she was in bed.

The research found that some dads said they did more housework early in the COVID-19 pandemic, while many spent more time at home, and many said they were more involved in life. of their children. But as once-closed workplaces call back employees, many dads are asking a question previously asked mostly by working moms: How do I get it all done?

Casey Scheibling, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto’s sociology department, participated in the research, which interviewed 1,250 mothers and fathers in heterosexual relationships just over a month into the pandemic.

He said the division of labor appeared to remain largely the same for most Canadian families when COVID-19 hit in 2020, with women in heterosexual couples appearing to shoulder most of the domestic work. But for about a third of the families surveyed, there has been a change.

“A significant minority of fathers were more involved in a myriad of different household and childcare chores. Playing with the kids, which fathers have always done a lot, but also monitoring their physical care, enforcing the rules,” Scheibling said.

“And in terms of household chores, things like cleaning up after meals, shopping, laundry and meal preparation.”

By taking on this job, Scheibling said, men challenge “traditional notions of masculinity that they grew up with,” which value professional accomplishments over personal accomplishments and see education as a more feminine role.

Among respondents, the study found that women’s workload was also increasing and women still did the majority of the work, but the gap narrowed as men took on additional tasks.

Scheibling hoped fathers who were more at home during the pandemic would learn how much work it takes to maintain a household and care for a family.

“Maybe some of these things will persist, and it will start to narrow the gender gap when it comes to domestic work,” he said, adding that it will take time to do the necessary research. to see if this is confirmed.

Bridging that divide won’t be easy, said Drew Soleyn, director of Dad Central Ontario, an organization that creates online resources for fathers, some run by family service organizations and others accessible online. by anyone.

“There’s going to be more tension, there’s going to be more stress,” Soleyn said.

“You feel really torn, you’re like, well, this is now a real priority for me… So how do I handle this? How do I handle this? And how do I communicate this to both with family life and professional life?

Soleyn, who is a father of three children under the age of 10, suggested this was just the beginning and people were still figuring it out, but said it would be crucial to clarify priorities on the personal and professional plans to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

“What are one or two key areas that you can focus on to ensure that you are not only taking care of yourself, but are also able to meet the needs of your partner, your children and, overall, of all the family dynamics? he said fathers should ask themselves the question.

From there, he said, they can talk to their partner, if they have one, and their workplace to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“I think you’ll see a lot of interesting things, a lot of good things, but I think it can also create a lot of challenges depending on the positions of the employer, as well as the dads’ approach to dealing with the pressures that they’re feeling multiple directions again,” Soleyn said.

“I feel like there will be a lot more conversations in the workplace about managing the demands that parents feel between work and home.”

As for Corbet, he has another baby on the way and a hybrid work schedule that sees him in the office a few days a week, so his life has changed yet again.

His wife is not working at the moment, as her job was too hard on her body during pregnancy, so she has taken over some of the parenting duties for the time being.

But he’s still preparing for another change when the baby arrives in a few months, and some trade-offs to make it all work.

“I used to work all day and work late, finishing the day at 6:30 or 7:30. Now you need to be on the child’s routine. I have to pick her up from daycare at 5:30 p.m., ”he said. “So I have to stop and I’ll come back to work later.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 17, 2022.

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