The role model of the fathers in society has been changing for some time. Fathers are taking on new tasks in childcare and the compatibility of family and career has long ceased to be just a women’s issue. To what extent is a man’s motivation to work influenced by his new role as a father? Andrea dealt with this question in her work for the Masters of Advanced Studies in Human Resources Management. In this interview she reveals what father roles are lived today, what motivates fathers at work and what strategies companies need to develop to win fathers over and retain them.
Andrea, Fatherhood and Work Motivation – How did you come up with this topic?
With the birth of my son in 2016, I personally experienced the great changes that motherhood brings to life. Also our life as a couple was clearly put to the test by parenthood, new tasks had to be distributed and discussed out. I quickly realized that my partner was challenged more than ever by fatherhood as husband, employee and father and had to face new challenges. This made me realize that fatherhood is often underestimated. On the basis of this personal experience and the possibility of incorporating the findings into my everyday work in human resources, I decided to make this topic an object of research.
How do the new fathers react to your new role?
Not all of them are actively dealing with the new challenges of their father role at the same time. Some are sometimes insecure or even overwhelmed. However, more and more men are facing the changes very concretely and see them as an opportunity. Typical male careers are increasingly being called into question and a stronger focus on the family is seen as an enrichment, especially by young fathers. Many men consider an emancipation of men in the sense of an extension of male areas of life to include child-rearing and household work to be an important and necessary development.
So has the traditional role model of the authoritarian father had its day? Are the majority of us surrounded by modern fathers?
In order to better understand the change of the paternity concept, it is necessary to show different types of men and their understanding of paternity (see graph). In the past, there was a father role clearly attributed to society. Whether fathers were happy with this traditional role or not. Nowadays, a father can choose the role more easily. Which father role a man finds himself in is very much influenced by his personal upbringing, masculinity role, work situation, education, partner, profession, number of children, etc.
As part of my master’s thesis, I interviewed 87 fathers with young children. This resulted in a clear distribution between two role models: Nearly 68 percent see themselves as egalitarian father types, which can be equated with a modern understanding of the father role. 27 percent of the interviewees felt that they belonged to the traditional father type. The other two role models are minimal in my study or not represented at all. The trend is clearly towards an increase in modern fathers. It is important to emphasize that these are technical terms and do not represent any evaluation of the respective father roles.
What influence does paternity have on work motivation? Are there differences depending on the role of the father?
All in all, the majority of young fathers are more motivated by taking on their new role. The differences between the fathers, who have classified themselves as egalitarian or traditional, are small. So-called hygiene factors such as a secure job, financial security or a relationship with superiors and colleagues are becoming more important for both groups of fathers (egalitarian and traditional) after the birth of their child. Both groups also value the benefits and usefulness of their activities, the assumption of responsibility and personal development more highly than before. Recognition at work, on the other hand, is perceived as less important.
When asked about the importance of a professional career, one is struck: While traditional fathers consider the possibility of a career to be equally important, the importance of a career for egalitarian fathers is declining. Personal profiling seems to give preference to the construct family.
Another aspect worth mentioning is that if a father cannot reconcile his own role model with his work, this will sooner or later have an effect on his motivation to work. And: the more egalitarian a man sees his role as father, the more important flexible work opportunities are to him.
What does this mean for the employers of the young fathers?
For the companies, this means that they should take appropriate measures to offer fathers the opportunity to be able to fulfill their desired egalitarian role as fathers. It is therefore very effective, for example, to isolate fathers from telephone calls and e-mails during their paternity leave; such measures are greatly appreciated by fathers. And even if they work part-time, they are still motivated to give their fathers interesting and meaningful activities and development opportunities. This does not even require a large budget, but only a father-friendly company culture and trust in the fathers to take their (working) lives into their own hands. Satisfied fathers and a relaxed family life – one cannot imagine a better employer branding.
Of course, everything is not as simple as it may sound. The egalitarian role model is not yet so established and not yet accepted by some employers. Even the fathers themselves lack experience and role models in dealing with the modern father role. In addition, women tend to earn less than men and families often cannot afford a lower income. In short, the image of the modern father is currently a hype, but the framework conditions are not yet fully developed. For this upswing to gain momentum, not only society and the economy, but also mothers need to play their part.