The Technological Father

From the new Sloan Research Network Work and Family blog:

Achieving a work-family balance doesn’t seem as foreign to fathers these days as it once did. Technology advances are giving fathers the freedom to focus on their family life while maintaining their workplace responsibilities…or so it seems.

A recent survey by human resources consulting firm Adecco USA found that 81% of fathers were somewhat likely to send work-related emails late at night. The evolution of technology has allowed fathers to take a more prominent role in the family. Email and devices like blackberries have made it easier for fathers to get their work done at home after the kids have gone to bed.

However, some might argue that all of these technological advancements have caused work to overflow into family life. Countless phone calls, emails, and text messages on blackberries and I-phones can cause unwanted disruptions during family time. In a recent Monster survey, 75% of dads said they believed bringing work home interferes with a parent’s relationship with their children. However, that may be the price some working fathers are willing to pay in order to have the flexibility to cater to family demands.

Speaking as someone who is indeed “somewhat likely to send work-related emails late at night” (or write blog entries!) and who brings work home, I think we’re simply seeing a trade-off. My work hasn’t diminished, but, as this entry suggests, I have gained the ability to do things like go to my son’s doctor’s appointments, read to his preschool class, and come home early when necessary.

My feeling is that this arrangement results in a net gain for my son. When I was growing up, there was no email, and yet my father always brought the stresses and preoccupations of work home with him. Email didn’t create work-home imbalance. At the same time, however, my father was pretty much gone during the weekday; I have no memories of him going to my dentist’s appointments or participating in school activities. So if technology creates flexibility for parents (not just dads, but working moms as well–curious that the blog entry should focus on dads), that’s probably a good thing overall.

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