Father's Day Memo to Working Dads

Last Updated Jun 16, 2011 10:10 AM EDT

To: Dads

From: A work-from-home Mom

Re: Get Your Tush Out of the Office

Look, Dads, I know you're feeling lucky to have a job right now. And you feel that if a lot of face time is what it takes to keep you employed, you're willing to do it.

But if you're reading this at work, stop right now. Quit procrastinating, finish your real work and get home to your kids, ASAP. It's Father's Day weekend. You probably have softball and soccer games to get to, a little Marco Polo to play at the pool, and maybe, just maybe, a round of golf if you've been good.

If you can get home early this day, maybe you can make a few other working-dad resolutions while you're at it. I talked to a sociologist, Janet Gornick, Ph.D., professor of political science at City University of New York, who studies family leave policies around the globe. She makes it painfully clear how messed up the U.S. is about work and family. What she said really got to me. Listen up:

Don't talk about how much you work. Americans have a fetish about long work hours. "It's only in the U.S. that you would go to a cocktail party and hear someone bragging, 'I work 80 hours a week,'" Gornick says. "No European would ever say that."

Take your vacation. All of it. Every last day that you're entitled to. America lags well behind the rest of the world in paid vacation. Now some companies are trending toward unlimited vacation. This seems like an awesome development -- until workers say they're afraid to take advantage of it. Here's another dark side of that unlimited vacation policy: If you get fired from a company with a nebulous, unlimited vacation policy, your severance package won't include unused time off. So take four weeks, at the very least. You'll be fresher and more engaged when you get back to work, and your family will love having you around.

If you've got a child on the way, and your company offers parental leave, please take that too. It's a rare perk, but you deserve it, your newborn deserves it, and the mother of your baby deserves it. Why? Here's Gornick again:

"If leave-takers are overwhelmingly female, then employers will have incentive to discriminate against young women in hiring and promotion. (This is what economists call "statistical discrimination.") Employers, all else equal, tend to prefer employees, especially employees in senior positions, who never take leaves. Thus, if leave-taking is associated with women, employers will -- to some extent, rationally -- avoid hiring and promoting women. Only when employers predict, correctly, that women and men are equally likely to be leave-takers will there be no more incentive to choose men over women."

In other words, take a leave to bond with your baby, share in the diaper duty and the tedium and the exhaustion, but also to help, in some small way, change the corporate world's expectations.

Value your time outside the office. Ask yourself this: What would be worth more to you? A $100,000 salary that requires 55 hours per week for 49 weeks per year or a $72,000 salary that requires 40 hours per week for 48 weeks per year?

Your free time has value, too. It's up to you to decide how much.

Have a great weekend.

Photo courtesy Flickr user edenpictures, CC 2.0
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