“I Decided to Put My Family First”: One Dad’s Story

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Akemashite omedeto to you. Let’s start the year off right with a rousing discussion of the work-family tug-o’-war.

In an ongoing debate following my earlier posting about the wage gap between genders, my friend Gerry writes in about his own situation. After they had their first child over four years ago, he and his wife both decided to go part-time so that they could tag-team the parenting.

The decision wasn’t without consequences for Gerry (who, despite one reader’s snarky comment about the spelling of his name, is in fact a guy). He tells his story best, so here it is:

After my first daughter was born I availed myself of the Family and Medical Leave Act and hunkered down at home for 12 weeks. When I returned to work it was at a reduced schedule of 4 days a week. (My wife returned to her job at 3 days a week.) Once back I instituted a late-night rotation so I did not have to work as much overtime as I had pre-child. I also stopped coming in early and working as many weekends.

It was obvious to everyone–including the company big wigs–that I was not the same worker I was before my little tax deduction came along. I decided to put my family first and my job second, and it showed. Sound familiar to any working moms?

Was I punished because of this attitude shift? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that my company’s president asked his counsel if he definitely had to let me take “paternity leave” (he did). I do know that for the next 4 years all of my raises were below the cost of living increase when before they were all above it, and during my first year back I was not given a bonus even though every other department head got one.

But I didn’t care then and still don’t. I’m working 3 days a week now and am happy I have chosen to work less and be home more–even if it means I make less money. I still got the better end of the deal.

But if my company did purposefully give me lean raises because in its eyes I was not working as much as those around me, could you blame them? Before child I used to routinely work 50 hours a week; after child I routinely stopped at 35 or 40. Why would they keep throwing money at me?

I don’t have a good answer to that one.