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New survey shows fathers struggle to balance work, family

A recent Boston College survey of 1,000 fathers showed, among other things, that many working fathers would be willing to give up their career to stay at home with their children if finances permitted. The study-entitled "The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted"-which surveyed almost 1,000 fathers in the United States who worked at Fortune 500 companies, was released on Wednesday.

The study, performed by the Boston College Center for Work & Family, shows the difficulty many married fathers have in balancing their work life with their family life. While the survey didn't specifically look at how fathers who have been through divorce balance family life with work goals, the question is an interesting one. Because many divorced fathers end up without primary custody of their children, there is the temptation of remaining uninvolved with them. Remaining a visible, reliable father in children's lives is just as important for divorced fathers, though, as it is for married fathers.

Fifty percent of the fathers surveyed said they would be willing to give up their role as family breadwinner to stay at home with their children if finances allowed them to do so. According to the executive director of the Center for Work & Family, the numbers indicate a significant change in viewpoints among fathers, but there are still many fathers who hold to more traditional sex roles when it comes to caring for the family.

While many of the fathers considered that parenting duties should be equally shared by them and their partner, the surveyed showed that fathers often do not actually share equally in those duties. For instance, many of the fathers who were survey didn't consider many daily child care tasks to be of high importance, and many fathers took less than one week off work after the birth of a child, and did not reduce their work hours after returning to work, but actually increased them.

Concluding that fathers want to care for their kids, but simply choose not to is not the only possible interpretation of the survey, though. Another way to look at it is that many fathers care for their children in other ways than daily child care tasks. Among the various ways in which fathers said they cared for their children was maintaining job security, even at the cost of a higher salary or achieving job promotions.

Source: Reuters, "Working dads' top priority is giving family love," Lauren Keiper, 15 June 2011.

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