Three ways to encourage dads to remain more involved parents

This week’s blog is written by co-founder of Parent & Professional, Helen Letchfield.

With this year’s International Men’s Day, 19 November, due to celebrate the positive value men can bring to their families, communities and organisations, here are three ways to help dads sustain the relationships they, and their children, need to thrive.

1. Support dads from the outset

Early-days bonding creates a secure family unit, making fathers more involved, confident and forging stronger partnership for the future. Men who invest more upfront time in their families, as soon as a baby is born, are less likely to separate from their partner and have more happiness and stability.

Many men don’t take shared parental leave because they don’t realise the mother doesn’t have to go back to work for the dad to take leave. They can actually take it simultaneously or overlap, so she can handover responsibilities and make sure he knows what he’s doing before she goes back to work.

So, at the same time as educating soon-to-be-mothers about their maternity rights, make sure soon-to-be-fathers are also informed of their rights as dad and encouraged to take them.

2. Embed current flexibility for dads for the long term

During Covid-19, many more dads have been able to work flexibly. Just under a third of the Sunday Times Top 20 Companies to Work For offer school hour contracts to all employees. But there’s still a long way to go to ensure the progress that has been made in 2020 is not lost going forward. 

Critical to creating a culture where men feel able to ask for flexible working is ensuring managers are focused on assessing performance based on the output people are generating, and not just the time they’re putting in, which can also help to address low productivity issues.

At the same time, encourage those men who are playing an active role in their children’s lives, not least by finishing work on time or working flexibly, to talk openly about this and what they’re doing after work, to encourage others to see how this might work for them also.

3. Provide dads with parental coaching

Asides from the physical challenges associated with pregnancy, and some of the body-image issues women struggle with after giving birth, the challenges facing new working mothers are the same as the challenges facing new working dads.

Both will be trying to adjust to huge changes to their lives, the challenges associated with asking for long-term flexible working and the importance of demonstrating high levels of productivity and effectiveness so that they continue to be able to progress their careers after becoming a parent.

By focusing on creating a workplace that’s not just mother-friendly but family-friendly, and ensuring men aren’t overlooked when it comes to any coaching or parental transition workshops, employers can help men to create a healthy work-life balance, without compromising their ability to stay effective and productive at work.

All of which helps women because, until dads can be supported to play a more proactive role at home, women will continue to be discriminated against at work and gender equality will remain a distant dream.

Case Study: Sidley supports working dads

One of P&P Coaching’s clients, Sidley Austin LLP (global law firm) believes in supporting men who are about to go through the huge transition of becoming a father, or who are already fathers and want to achieve a better work-family balance.

Parental coaching, which had traditionally only been offered to women taking maternity leave, is now offered to all lawyers working for the firm, with HR recognising that dads are also going through a huge life change and need the same level of support and recognition as new mothers do.

These coaching sessions, provided by Parent & Professional, consist of four one-to-one coaching sessions from a qualified career coach, with the theme for discussion very much led by what each individual is experiencing at that point.

Dads have found it useful to talk about everything from coping with sleep deprivation to better managing work with family needs, as well as preparing their careers for partnership while meeting the needs of a young family.

Coaching sessions, personality profiling tools and self-development exercises are also available to help those taking part develop a better understanding of themselves and what they can do to make their personal and professional lives more fulfilling.

Jerry Gallagher, Director of HR at Sidley, says: “With many new fathers increasingly taking longer periods of shared parental leave, fatherhood presents more challenges than it has in the past. The coaching programme provided by Parent & Professional has helped fathers adjust to their new responsibilities and been very well received.”

Kellie Wade, HR advisor for Sidley, adds, “It’s great to be able to offer this benefit to help working fathers balance family responsibilities with professional demands. The feedback received has been overwhelmingly positive.”