At an education conference I attended, the conversation quickly turned to Rep. Paul Ryan, and how he made time with his family one of his pre-conditions for running for House speaker.
“I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said Tuesday.
A high-profile man asserting that time with his three children, ages 10, 12, and 13, was just as important, if not more so, than becoming the most powerful person in the United States Congress? Could this be a watershed moment in the work-life balance debate?
Paul Ryan willing to be U.S. House speaker
Paul Ryan willing to be U.S. House speaker 02:03
In conversations with women at that conference Wednesday and over email with women and men around the country, it’s clear there are dramatically different opinions about just whether Ryan’s work-life balance stance will shift the debate and do anything to bring about real change for working parents.
Related: A year of paid parental leave: Vital but how likely?
Ryan’s position “influences the work life conversation greatly,” said Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother Media. “He is reaching for the third most powerful job in the federal government while acknowledging the importance of his role as a parent. That is a message that will be heard loud and clear.”
Owens said Ryan is setting a good example by making work-life balance a “condition of employment so to speak.” While he is, no doubt, in a “powerful position to leverage” his work-life demands, he is sending a “powerful message” about the importance fathers are putting on their commitment to their families, she said.
Are perceptions of dads changing?
Are perceptions of dads changing? 04:30
Janis Brett Elspas, a mother of four and founder of Mommy Blog Expert, believes Ryan could not only be blazing the trail for fathers to get more quality time with their children, but for working mothers too.
“It’s about time for family to come first before work, just the way it used to be before the Industrial Revolution started,” she said.
Related: Work-life balance is not just a women’s issue
For family time but against paid parental leave?
Almost immediately after Ryan made clear he would not give up weekend time with his children to become speaker, it was revealed he has not supported paid parental leave. In 2009, he voted against a proposal that would have given federal workers four weeks of paid parental leave. Currently, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not require at least some paid leave for new parents.
John Furjanic, a single father of one, believes Ryan’s comments will make it much harder for him to vote against issues concerning parental leave in the future.
“I think this is a watershed moment because he is a man and he is conservative,” said Furjanic. “He would be a hypocrite to give himself family time off and not grant it to the rest of the USA.”
But, on the other side, many parents slammed Ryan for denying to others what he wants for himself and his family.
“When Rep. Ryan had the opportunity to vote for paid time for federal employees to bond with a new child, he voted no,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, an organization with coalitions in 21 states working on passing paid sick days and paid family leave policies. “Across the country, voters are demonstrating strong support for policies that help all families have time to spend with their loved ones. We urge Rep. Ryan to expand his gaze from his own family to those of the entire nation.”
Katharine Zaleski, co-founder and president of PowerToFly, which matches businesses with women who can work from anywhere, went even further.
“The irony is that he now appears to be a hero to working parents for saying he wants family time because often heroes speak out against the status quo, but he is one of the people who created such a harsh status quo toward working parents,” said Zaleski, a mother of one. “The irony is amazing but I applaud him because he’s opened up this debate and revealed his own hypocrisy.
HuffPo found this amazing twitter account for us. It flips the crap people say to working moms around and presents the info as if someone were talking to men. It’s so absurd and funny. A great way to think about our current cultural struggles.
A hilarious parody Twitter account is calling out the inane advice working moms hear all the time.
@manwhohasitall offers “top tips for men juggling a successful career and fatherhood” — from beauty routines to clothing advice to ways to get some “me time” while doing housework late at night.
The account launched in May 2015 and currently has over 5000 followers, many of whom have praised the eye-opening “gender-flipping” lifestyle advice.
As Twitter user Laura Cowen wrote, “Stuff we’re used to hearing said to women suddenly sounds shocking/ridiculous/patronising when said to men…”
In an interview with The Huffington Post, the U.K.-based creator of @manwhohasitall — who prefers to remain anonymous — pointed to reviews like Cowen’s when asked about the principal message of the account. By reimagining the “crap” that lifestyle publications and advertisements often spout at working moms, @manwhohasitall highlights the tired gender stereotypes used to characterize women in the workforce today.
Speaking in character, the account’s creator added, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely fine with dads who work. It boosts their self-esteem and gives them an identity beyond just ‘dad.'”