Distant Dads? Not Us, Many Say
Many more dads are taking a stay-at-home role and learning more meaningful roles in their children's lives.
The Work-Family Fulcrum
"My father never changed a diaper, and he had four children," says Jim DiRenzo, of Lebanon, N.H. He, however, changes diapers for his daughter Isabella, who was born in January 2005.
DiRenzo also works full time as a cancer researcher at Dartmouth Medical School. His wife Erica, a clinical social worker, has been staying home with Isabella. "During the times when I'm home, we both make an effort to share the responsibilities," he tells WebMD.
From the get-go, he was eager to be involved with his baby girl, attending classes with Erica at the local women's health center, and he took paternity leave after the birth. He was prepared for the extra duties that would come with caring for an infant, but he didn't fully anticipate the fine balancing act he would have to perform once he returned to work.
"I thought I would be as effective at work as I was before Bella was born," he says. "What I learned after she was born, and after I went back to work, was that I had to start with baby steps."
Instead of going back to full workdays immediately, he worked half days for a while. Even now, he no longer works 11-hour days and weekends, as he did before. He has learned to squeeze the same amount of work into a much shorter day, he says.
"I do think that I'm fortunate to be in an academic environment because I know for certain that people who are in more of a corporate environment don't have that kind of flexibility."
He's quite right. A 2001 Society for Human Resources Management survey showed that only 14% of companies offered any paid paternity leave. What's more, according to the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce, conducted by the Families and Work Institute, 45% of parents surveyed -- moms and dads -- said that work interfered with their family lives "some" or "a lot," and more working fathers than mothers said so.
One in three children born in the U.S. are born to unwed mothers, but that does not mean dad is always out of the picture, or that mom is necessarily alone.