In 1999 Bryan Levey wrote about “daddy day” caring for his toddler son for The Third Path Institute, a non-profit supporting parents in their efforts to share child care. Thirteen years later, Lisa Levey—Bryan’s wife and an expert on women in business and work-life issues—interviewed him about his journey 0f integrating fatherhood and professional demands.
Bryan Levey on The Gift of Sharing Care, 1999
I always knew I wanted to be a very involved dad, but until the time comes when the baby is born and real, it can be difficult to know exactly what that means.
As it turns out, for our family, sharing care has been a way—a lifestyle choice really—to make real this ideal of being intimately involved in the day-to-day care of my son. By spending the first few months at home with my son and wife while she was on parental leave, and then caring for my son one day during the work week, a day known to him as Daddy Day—mommy also has her own day during the work week—I have been able to develop the kind of relationship with my son that I had always hoped for.
Being able to share the care of my son with my wife has been a true gift for me with some of the benefits anticipated and others coming as quite a surprise. As anticipated, the greatest benefit of sharing care has been the many “little moments” with my son that make me feel as though I’m witnessing his growing up first-hand. I know his favorite books and his favorite playgrounds, the stories he makes up while playing with his trains, and how he likes his grilled cheese sandwich cooked at lunch.
But sharing care has also brought many more joys. It has brought my wife and me closer together as we feel like ‘true partners’ in this whole business of raising a family. We can share our lives on several fronts—the ups and downs of clients and projects and deadlines and co-workers on the work front, and the ups and downs of playtime and napping and discipline and mealtime on the home front. Sharing care has helped to foster a wonderful closeness with my wife as well as my son.
It has also made me a better employee—certainly a more productive one. Because I know my time at work is limited, when I am at work, I am very focused. I have become better at prioritizing and retaining perspective on what part of my contribution is the most valuable: to the company I work for, and to our customers. My company has recognized these contributions of mine, both verbally and monetarily, despite the fact that I am family-focused.
Another benefit of sharing care and the way my wife and I have been able to structure our lives is that we both have a certain amount of private time in any week to “do our own thing” and regenerate. We’ve been able to create windows of time where each of us has the night off, or a morning off, where we can pursue our own interests apart from work and children. This time is precious to me.
One of the real benefits of sharing care is the realization of a vision of a new family structure: one where men and women contribute in significant ways both in the raising of children and in the generation of income. It can be easy to feel isolated at times in this lifestyle, especially being the only father on the playground on a Thursday morning, or the only male senior technical person who works a reduced schedule. Sharing care has been different from the norms I was raised with. But to my mind, I have the best of all worlds. I am developing a depth of connection with my son that I never had with my own father, while still doing work I love and moving ahead in my career.
I think we’ve found a better way to combine work and family. [Click here to read a follow-up conversation with Bryan Levey, thirteen years after he wrote this essay.]
—Photo credit: ewen and donabel/Flickr