Is There Workplace Discrimination Against Divorced Dads?
For dads, leaving work early to pick up the kids is nowhere near as acceptable as it is for moms. Robert Anthony reports for YourTango.
It often seems that men have little to complain about it when it comes to office culture. Things can be a little different if you’re a dad, however. Especially if you’re a dad who chooses to be strongly involved and present in your kids’ care and upbringing. And even more especially if you happen to be a dad who’s divorced. Because divorced dads suffer routinely from one of the last remaining forms of socially acceptable workplace discrimination.
For so many men, being an involved parent and being a productive employee can often be at odds. The need to properly raise one’s child is something that most modern workplaces do respect and make provisions for—but this respect seems to extend mainly to mothers. For fathers, it seems the message is, “Work first, parenthood second.”
Across the board, there is an unwritten rule—as there should be—that a working mother must always be there for her children first and foremost. Often, moms can negotiate for a special work schedule, which allows them to pick up their kids from school. Leaving early or coming in late on a regular basis is given the green light. Leaving work for doctor’s appointments and school functions are regular occurrences and perfectly acceptable excuses with superiors—many of whom, in this day and age, are moms themselves.
Ask any working dad and he will tell you that it is significantly more difficult to win that same unspoken respect that moms often enjoy in the workplace.
This is not to say that moms in the workplace have a free ride—this is certainly not true, as women still must often struggle to find the balance between motherhood and career. However it is much harder for dads to receive this same parental leniency, and that is a double standard that we need to start working to fix.
For many working fathers, leaving work early to pick up kids, or to attend a PTA meeting, for example, is nowhere near as simple or socially acceptable as it is for working mothers. The general attitude in the workplace towards these dads is, “Don’t the kids have a Mom? Can’t she take care of it?” As a dad, he is usually less of a parent in the eyes of workplace superiors. He is seen as less essential to his kid, meaning by implication that he can, and should, give more of himself to the job than a mom should be expected to. This attitude is tough enough to combat as a married father, who can, however unfairly, fall back on that maternal involvement when need be. But what about divorced dads, who either have full custody of their children, or, if they share custody, are solely responsible for their kids during the time they have them? There is no Mom to fall back on during those times.
So while it is certainly true that men do get a better deal in the workplace than most women, each time a divorced father has to miss his daughter’s cello performance, or pawn his son off on amiable friends and family who already do too much, that feels like a small consolation. It’s an offensive workplace double standard that is unfair not only to working fathers themselves, but to the mothers being confined to outdated gender roles by default.