In the wake of #MeToo and ongoing sexual harassment allegations against men, one key group is being left out of the discussion: working dads. In today’s modern time, how do working dads cope with working dad guilt, nurture their wives, and speak up in the boardroom, all the while maintaining a youthful glow? Meghan Murphy speaks with The Man Who Has It All, author of a new book, The Man Who Has It All: A Patronizing Parody of Self-Help Books for Women, to learn more about empowered dads.
MEGHAN MURPHY: What kind of discrimination have you faced in the workforce on account of being a dad? Do you find your female co-workers take you less seriously as a result? Do you ever get the sense you are left out of or excluded from key lunch meetings or weekend golf trips on account of being a man? What do you do to deal with this?
MAN WHO HAS IT ALL: I’m treated very differently at work now that I’m a father. My colleagues resent it when I leave early to collect my sick child and my boss stopped giving me interesting projects to do. But I think my own perception of myself is to blame. I see myself as somebody’s dad now, rather than a person in my own right.
I feel excluded from dinners with the Chippendales, roller derby team-building sessions, and charity auctions (they auction penis-enhancers for “the husband”). My wife occasionally babysits for me so I can go, but to be honest, I don’t enjoy it.
That said, having a child need not be the end of a man’s career. Forward-thinking companies are beginning to see the value in hiring men who have children.
MM: Men have a reputation of being oversensitive, and sometimes working in female-dominated workplaces can be tough — female humour, sports talk, objectifying comments about penises can make men feel uncomfortable, and the way women communicate can often be straightforward in a way that sounds harsh to male ears. How do you keep your emotions in check in the boardroom?
MWHIA: It’s tough. My boss says I take myself too seriously. When she joked that I should get my penis out in a team meeting so “we can all have a good laugh,” I didn’t realize it was supposed to be funny. I felt very uncomfortable; but as my wife says, I can’t complain because men in other countries have it worse.
MM: Do you ever worry your career might be a turn off for your wife? That she might feel intimidated by your success and independence or that this might cause her to feel unfeminine?
MWHIA: Yes, this is a huge worry. There’s not many women who would be so understanding. She actually supports my choice to work outside the home, as long it doesn’t affect my ability to look after the house and kids. She said when we first met that she likes a feisty, independent man who knows his own mind. That’s me!
MM: Do you struggle with guilt over your decision to become a career dad? If so, how do you cope?
MWHIA: Guilt is a working dad’s worst enemy.
As a father, any time I do something for myself, personally or professionally, there are varying levels of guilt associated with it. Everything from peeing with the door closed to buying myself a new pair of trousers all come with a side serving of good old-fashioned guilt!
We are fathers, first and foremost, but we are also fully actualized human beings who need to feed all the important parts of ourselves. And isn’t that what it’s all about: being the best fathers we can possibly be?
Men who thrive are those who overcome these feelings of guilt. I stop daddy-guilt in its tracks by hanging a wooden plaque in my kitchen that says, “This is a guilt-free zone.” I also write shorter to-do lists and stop trying to compare myself with other dads. If Matt next door has his second load of laundry on the washing line by 7 a.m., I just take a deep breath and let go.
MM: Any tips for working dads in terms of keeping the romance alive? How do you ensure your wife feels nurtured and desired even though you’ve had an exhausting day at work, followed by decorating cupcakes, vacuuming, meal-planning for the week, helping the kids with their homework, then squeezing in a quick booty blast workout?
MWHIA: That’s a great question. It’s all too easy for dads to forget that women can often feel left out when the kids come along. I organize a babysitter and arrange “date nights” with my wife every month. I sometimes wish she would do more housework, but she just happens not to be very good at organizing, cooking, meal planning, ironing, tidying, cleaning, shopping, laundry, childcare, changing bed linen, taking the kids to the doctor, booking holidays, gift-buying, helping out at school, making friends with other mums, or emotional labour. We play to our strengths. We both work full-time, but she puts the bins out which, as she reminds me, is a weekly job.
MM: This is a sensitive question, but one I’m sure many of our dad-readers will relate to: do you worry your wife might leave you one day for a man with a more taut penis, who doesn’t have greying stubble and saggy knee skin? As successful as she is, she must get offers all the time from young, bubbly men!
MWHIA: I worry about this even though I know my wife loves me for who I am on the inside. My penis is pretty good for my age and she tells me I scrub up well when we go out. If I don’t want her to stray, it’s up to me to keep her happy in the bedroom!
MM: Now for the fun stuff! What is your favorite way to relax and get back in touch with you? Do you kick back in a bubble bath with a glass of chardonnay or plan spa days with some of your daddy friends for some mani-pedis and boy talk?
MWHIA: Yes! How did you know? I carve out time every week to pour myself a glass of sparkling water and curl up with a good book and one chocolate-covered rice cake. I give myself permission to put my feet up and relax because it’s absolutely okay to stop for a second. I call this “me time.” I feel very passionately that every working dad should have time to himself, away from the kids, even if it’s just a couple of minutes a month.
MM: It’s hard to find a balance between looking cute and fashionable while also avoiding unwanted comments and stares from female co-workers. Any tips for dressing in a masculine way at the office without looking too sexy?
MWHIA: It’s tough and sometimes I feel like I can’t win! I don’t want to look uptight or frumpy but neither do I want to encourage women to be overly handsy or gropey. It’s a tightrope! Finding the balance is all about choosing the right accessories, staying on trend and dressing for your body shape.
MM: What men in history have inspired you to find your inner confidence and make your voice heard?
MWHIA: You’ve got me there — I can’t actually think of any men in history. To be honest, I’m more inspired by people than I am by men.
MM: It’s February, which is always such a tough time of year for ageing dads. You no longer have the dewy skin of a 20-something and fighting the winter bulge is harder than ever. How do you stay fresh and youthful looking through the winter months?
MWHIA: I make sure I drink enough water during the day, eat six almonds and dress in my “wow” colours.
MM: What makes you feel sexy and empowered, as a man?
MWHIA: I am grateful to be able to choose whether to pay another man to do my cleaning or do it myself. My wife lets me choose and book all our family holidays, decide which schools our kids should go to and what we have for dinner. She also let me choose a new kitchen recently. Gosh — what a lucky boy I am!
When a woman tells me to smile I feel empowered. I also like it when my boss tells me to pipe up in a meeting or when she says I write quite well, for a man. She says she’s good at empowering her male staff and she’s right. She’s a great female ally. I’m so lucky.
The Man Who Has It All is a satirical Twitter account and author of “The Man Who Has It All: A Patronizing Parody of Self-Help Books for Women,” the first trailblazing guide that empowers men and shows them how they, too, can have it all!
The Man Who Has It All: A Patronizing Parody of Self-Help Books for Women is published by Skyhorse Publishing.