"I'd rather have everyone forget I ever took a career break in the first place"
One of our missions at iRelaunch is to trumpet success stories - to give so many examples of people returning to work after a career break that it becomes viewed as a normal and unremarkable career path. With over 200 success stories on our website and hundreds more identified, we are well on our way. Yet one group is conspicuously absent – men. Only four of our stories document men returning to work.
Why is this? It’s because men who take career breaks for caregiving reasons prefer to keep that information to themselves. Whereas women are happy to talk about their experiences, often in the hope that their examples can help other relaunchers, men hesitate. It's not that they don’t want to help. Rather, what we hear from our relaunching dads is, "I'd rather have everyone forget I ever took a career break in the first place."
The problem is that men are concerned that their former roles as caregivers still carry a stigma, even in 2016.
While attitudes are changing rapidly, with a recent report from Manpower Group indicating that 84% of millennials anticipate a career break at some point, we are not quite there yet with return to work dads.
The most recent Pew Research Center report estimates that two million U.S. fathers with children are not working outside the home. Of these, 21% or 420,000 say they are home to care for family. This percentage is a fourfold increase from 1989, when only 5% of men claimed full time caregiving as their reason for not working outside the home.
So, as we head into Father's Day weekend, let’s honor our four return to work dads who share their stories proudly and from whose experiences we can all learn and benefit.
Relauncher Dave Carty left his job as an international business development executive for Best Foods (now part of Unilever) to stay home with his three children for 13 years. He relaunched his career in 2014 in a strategy role at a K-12 school.
I remember vividly Dave’s accounting of the interview process: "When I interviewed with an employer who I could tell was uncomfortable with my time as a stay-at-home dad, I knew that was not the right place for me to return to work. I kept interviewing until I was speaking with employers who really got who I was."
Relauncher Roger Johnson's wife recently recounted his relaunch journey in her Harvard Business Review article, "What It’s Like When a Stay-at-Home Dad Goes Back to Work."
Roger was not only the relatively rare return to work dad, but he pulled off the highly improbable feat of returning to tenure-track academia after seven years out of the workforce.
Sami Kafala is a nuclear physicist who took a five year hiatus to care for his five children. His relaunch came courtesy of the UK Daphne Jackson Foundation which awards fellowships to returning scientific researchers who have taken career breaks.
And Dave Hubbard returned to the same job he left (also a rare occurrence), as Director of Government Contracts for a tech government contractor after five years caring for his child.
Thank you Dave, Dave, Sami and Roger for leading the way and proudly demonstrating how at-home dads relaunch careers. Happy Father's Day!