One of the most common regrets of the dying, and men specifically, is wishing they hadn’t worked so hard.
In 2009, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware wrote that every male patient she looked after expressed that sorrow.
“They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
Younger fathers today appear to be changing course with how they view their role in the workforce and at home.
A Modern Families Index report released this month in the U.K. revealed 47 per cent of fathers would like to make the switch to a less stressful job to have a better work-life balance and more time for family. Close to 40 per cent would even be willing to get paid less to make that happen.
The findings are consistent with a 2010 Canadian survey commissioned by Workopolis. It found, if given the choice, 56 per cent of dads would opt for a 10 per cent pay cut if it meant they could spend 10 per cent more time at home with their kids.
Half the surveyed fathers said they’d also consider a job change if it gave them extra family time.
Toronto father-of-three Warren Orlans (aka the man behind the Urban Daddy blog) made the decision to majorly scale back on work in 2013. He quit his job at a high-powered Toronto tax firm, where he managed multi-million-dollar accounts, to spend more time with his family.
The 45-year-old took a “significant” pay cut to run a tax consulting business out of his basement, which has allowed him way more freedom and flexibility. He no longer misses dinner time due to his commute and is able to be a bigger part of the lives of daughter and two boys, who are aged 7, 10 and 12 respectively.
“[I’m] able to watch them at their swim practice, dance practice, [sports]… It’s amazing to spend time with them.”
Orlands explains that when he was growing up, he didn’t get to spend that kind of time with his late father.
“I want to be a better parent to my kids than my father was able to be to me,” Orlands said.
“I try to make the time…every time.”
‘Partners in parenting’
Nora Spinks of the Vanier Institute of the Family explains there are a couple reasons why fathers are taking on more active roles at home.
She thinks there’s been a recent spike in stay-at-home dads because of the economic downturn in some male-dominant fields (like the oil industry). Female-dominated jobs in areas like education and nursing have been most secure.
“So increasingly women are bringing in either equal or in some cases increasingly the majority of the household income.”
Men are more likely to embrace being at home if their partner brings in a solid income, Spinks says.
There are also some “subconscious” influences at play, she believes, especially with millennials. Those born in the ’80s saw more mothers working than ever before, but also more separation and divorce than any generation since. Even children whose parents stayed together likely had a close friend whose parents shared custody and co-parented.
“It’s the first generation that saw dads doing dishes, tying pony tails, folding laundry in a way no other generation before did,” she said.
“As they became adults, they carried on that behaviour… Dads see themselves as partners in parenting.”
In Orlans’ household the chores get divvied up based on strengths and weaknesses. He cleans, his wife (who’s a teacher) cooks. She does laundry, he folds and puts it away.
“I clean up poo, she takes care of vomit. I help as much as I can. I learned that growing up, so I’m not afraid of helping anywhere and everywhere.
“I want my kids to see that in a family everyone helps out, all the time, whether they like it or not.”
‘It’s a wave we can’t stop’
Spinks believes more men are feeling empowered to take paternity leave to help care for their new babies and provide postpartum care.
Orlans has experienced both sides of the coin. When he was working at the Canada Revenue Agency, he felt comfortable taking the time off. He took nine months with his firstborn, which he says was “incredible” and taught him “what it meant to be a dad.”
He took four months off with his second child. By the third, he’d moved from the public sector to the private firm, where he says his boss was “anxious” at the thought of him taking even a single day off.
“So that was all I took,” he said. “I think employers like to state that they offer a work-life balance, but they don’t understand what that means.”
The federal government is looking at improving parental care benefits across the country. It’s still not known what will change or when, but Spinks is certain “there will be a change.”
“There may be a new paternity leave, or more encouragement for dads [to take it]… It’s a wave we can’t stop.”
Quebec is leading on the charge on that front. There, Spinks says there’s more negative stigma if a father doesn’t take the paternity leave that’s mandated in the province.
The shift in attitude has trickled down to the marketplace as well. “Moms and tots” groups are now “parenting programs,” according to Spinks, who adds some strollers are even designed with higher handles to accommodate the taller frame of dads.
“It’s the way society is changing and it’s for the better,” Orlands said of all the shifts.
“You can work that corporate ladder… and then see your kids in passing or while they are sleeping, or you can accept something different which allows for that relationship.”
“Kids want and need to be loved and supported. Spouses want the same. The work will always be there, but my family needs me and I need them. So I make that a priority.
“If it means taking less money, less responsibility, or passing up a promotion for the greater good of the family, then this should be rewarded, not looked upon in a negative manner.”
Here’s a closer look at what fatherhood looks like in Canada:
Infographic designed by Jesse Skelton, Global News