02priorities-master315At Harvard, a new noncredit course helps students figure out how to live a more fulfilling life, one that’s happier and more productive. As part of the seminar, students are asked a series of questions, and one in particular brought up an issue that’s at the very core of what’s wrong with our workplaces today.

This from an article in the New York Times written by a Harvard professor about the questions posed:

In the Core Values Exercise, students are presented with a sheet of paper with about 25 words on it. The words include “dignity,” “love,” “fame,” “family,” “excellence,” “wealth” and “wisdom.” They are told to circle the five words that best describe their core values. Now, we ask, how might you deal with a situation where your core values come into conflict with one another? Students find this question particularly difficult. One student brought up his own personal dilemma: He wants to be a surgeon, and he also wants to have a large family. So his core values included the words “useful” and “family.” He said he worries a lot whether he could be a successful surgeon while also being a devoted father. Students couldn’t stop talking about this example, as many saw themselves facing a similar challenge.

We just can’t see beyond the traditional ways so many of the important jobs people do have been set up. Why do we continue to see this as one or the other? Why can’t we change the way even the difficult jobs are structured?

It’s refreshing that young men are starting to ponder this. For too long it’s been mainly women who were sick and tired of trying to fit their lives into an out-dated workplace model that no longer fits for today’s realities. Women are juggling children and careers, caring for aging family members, and all the while penalized for it.

Suddenly, men want it all as well. But how do we become devoted parents and also lean in if careers/jobs, and how we see them, stay so rigid?

First off, when someone becomes a parent, no matter what job they hold, it’s a good idea to take some time off. Again I’ll point out that the United States is one of the only industrialized nations without mandatory paid parenting leave. Not sure we want our surgeons working during those first few weeks after a baby is born anyway. Even if there’s a spouse taking on all the late night feedings, the other parent is probably going to lose some sleep and focus for a bit of time.

And spending time with babies is helpful for all involved. According to the “Family Matters” report from Families and Work Institute, the research on the impact of paternity leave on employed fathers is scarce, but what research does exist shows that when fathers are actively involved in the transition to parenthood, starting during the pregnancy and extending after the baby is born—including taking paternity leave—the whole family can benefit.

So, a few months off when you become a parent is helpful, (more…)