Expectations towards a modern father
How about magazines and journals for executives and managers? Career and family would compete with stress management for the most investigated topic ever.
I was therefore first reluctant to write this article: many more, and often more entitled than me to write about it, have already superbly contributed to this topic, also in this career blog, with very well written articles.
Then I thought, and realized: career and family is almost exclusively seen as a topic for the women universe! How about our fathers’ – lesser-known left – aside point of view? So I decided to write about fatherhood and career, and about the Väternetzwerk (Father network) – an initiative at TÜV Rheinland.
I belonged to that generation, whose fathers were the children of the protests of the ‘60s and the ‘70s: rid from the past and the traditional family model, they were for sure different from their Bismarck-style, distant and daunting fathers they opposed. But although being emotional, friendly, playful and kind, they were far away from being really and significantly involved in the family ménage and in the education of the children.
I am an expat, I was born and grown up in Italy, and there I started my life as young adult. But I believe my experience is similar with the one of many colleagues born in the ‘80s in Germany or in other parts of the world. Therefore, when my peers and I decided to become fathers – or, in some cases, just ended up as one! – we rarely had relevant fatherly example to follow, or other adults to adopt as role models, for what concerns dealing with children. We needed to be successful in this new job, without having studied for, nor having a senior colleague to learn from!
I have to be honest with you: while starting a family was a free, willful and desired choice of my partner and me, I soon understood that as a full time working father, passionate about his job and committed to it, I probably had bitten off more than I could chew. I needed to set up myself for the task, and to do it fast.
Today’s society requires a high performant model of father, and I am not only referring to the stereotypical example of changing nappies: we are asked to be present, to co-decide about education and family rules, to have time on our own with the kids, to support our partners in their professional life, and a lot more.
And how about career?
In addition to that, we also want to have a career, don’t we? Women had to fight and strive through generations in order to achieve emancipation – that, unfortunately, is in many cases still not fully achieved and accepted – and family-career balance, and therefore learned a lot from this struggle.
The fact that a man, a father, would have aspiration to a career, was a non-topic till not long ago. It was just natural, that career was something for men, for which men are somehow born for, and there is no need to claim for it. So very few ones really took time to study how men and career can function together.
There are of course educators and counselors who wrote books, articles, and carried studies about fatherhood and career. But widely less, and less popular, then the ones focusing on the women’ point of view.
Kind of paradox, at the end, men are surely prepared for what concerns career and career related skills, but often find themselves dramatically unprepared for the role the society expects from them in regards of fatherhood, and rarely magazines would write about it.
Skills as project manager and father – surprisingly similar
What can I say, from my little knowledge and experience? I am rather used to talk and write about railways, rolling stock and safety engineering!
Fatherhood, biological or not – it does not matter to me – is a life-changing experience, that can only enrich the one who goes for it. It requires soul, spirit, and a good amount of stamina. Intelligence, empathy, solidity, and a strong set of values to teach – you cannot teach what you do not have – are needed to complete the toolkit. And when you combine this with the family ménage and the career expectations, you will need to add respect and understanding for the partner, and a daily dose of good organization and strong discipline.
Can we learn from fatherhood? Sure yes. Let’s not underestimate the advantages that getting truly involved in the fatherhood and family ménage would bring to our professional hard and soft skills. As a certified project manager, I see many correspondences in the skillset you need to be a father, and the one of a project manager:
- Agile project management won’t help you to decide in the “family scrum” – how do you even change a plan due to last minute unavailability of the nanny or urgent business trip?
- Or how about the soft skill of solving a conflict between project stakeholders, when one kid wants to stay at the playground, the other prefers keep watching television, and mum wants both to sit for dinner?
- And not to forget planning: due to constant change of project environment and constraints we will need a rolling wave approach, while the final goal must keep aligned with the project governance objectives of a good education of our children and family well-being.
- Eventually, about leadership: we will need to play many leadership styles, if we want our kids to grow up with a set of values, happy, free and solid. Teaching the pleasure of life to our kids might help us be a visionary leader. Giving them freedom in their choices and accountability for it, will teach us how to be an empowering leader. And of course we will need to teach them discipline (authoritative leader) and pleasure of the human relationships (affiliative one).
Family-friendly for the Win in the War of Talents
I started this adventure in the fatherhood, and shortly afterwards I made my new career step at TÜV Rheinland.
It was not my fourth week at TÜV Rheinland yet, that while exploring the Intranet Blueye I came across the Väternetzwerk (Fathers Network) initiative.
As a mid-thirty expat, with two lovely little monsters running and shouting around at home, new in an unknown company, the idea of a network of fathers-colleagues to link with immediately spurred up my interest.
Since the very beginning, and also based on the chats with the new colleagues, I had the clear impression of a family-friendly employer:
- kindergarten on campus
- flexible working hours
- possibility of part-time contracts also for high-level profiles
- openness towards topics like parental leave and similar – that are, despite their legal status, still a taboo in many companies
This mentality is in my opinion a winning one in the world of today. Always more and more professionals select their employer, rather than being selected by. And family-friendliness is often among the major criteria of preference. I believe this is one of the reasons, why TÜV Rheinland can attract many skilled professionals to join the team.
Among the family-friendly initiatives, there is of course the Väternetzwerk (Fathers Network).
The Väternetzwerk at TÜV Rheinland
If I have to describe it in few words, I would say it is an informal group of colleagues, who meet in order to share experiences, knowledge and organize events all about fatherhood and parenthood.
Colleagues joining the Väternetzwerk (Fathers Network) are standing for a family-friendly employer culture, are happy to share experiences and give support, are an ear for all fathers at TÜV Rheinland and joyfully spend time with their kids. By doing this, we do our little share in making TÜV Rheinland more attractive for new skilled colleagues and therefore more competitive in the market.
Why did I join? For the reasons express in the incipit of this article, for sure. And because I felt appealed by the principles upheld by the network. I first joined the network in the occasion of one of the regular meet-up lunches. I was immediately happy to see some known faces from my team around me – at the time the very few people I had already met at TÜV Rheinland. The feeling with the other colleagues was immediate too, and in few minutes, after the ritual presentations, we were chatting about the most various topics – fatherhood only one of them!
Another time, I had the chance to take part to an introductory seminar about first-aid techniques for newborns and little kids. Such a valuable seminar, free of costs, organized directly after the working hours in the Innovation Space, and therefore with zero dead mileage and time loss? A great chance, for sure!
Every father is welcome in the network
There is a regular meet-up lunch on a bi-monthly base – now on hold due to Covid-pandemic rules – and topic-specific events like conferences and seminars (now online).
Some examples? A seminar about mental overload and stress management. Or pedagogy seminars about supporting kids’ self-esteem, their school stress in the puberty, or how to teach them a healthy use of smart devices. A core-group of colleagues meet on a regular base in order to plan and organize the group’s activities.
Who can become a member of Väternetzwerk (Fathers Network), and how? Every colleague who feels appealed by our principles can join. No formal membership is required. Just drop by at one of our events!
To all my new colleagues:
In the Blueye portal, the reader can find a detailed overview here. The Väternetzwerk initiative is under the patronage of HR Office Germany, and there are colleagues available as contact person for your needs and questions. Do you feel to get more committed, and contribute to the core-group? Very easy, just contact email@example.com and let’s get started!
His career tip for you is: Always strive for improvement, never stop learning and studying, support people around you in performing at their best.
After the military: Civilian career at TÜV Rheinland
Preparing for a job interview – expert tips