09 Apr Dads, Listen Up: Facebook’s COO Leaves Work at 5:30
Any mom will gladly swap stories about the brutally difficult but critically important part of their family’s day known as dinner/bath/bedtime. But where are the dads? The answer is all too universal. Even women who are on the cusp of a business breakthrough themselves or are already pulling in significant income, will likely say, “He needs to be at the office.”
I know this to be wrong. And now I have further proof; the person responsible for making sure the trains run on time at what is soon to be the most valuable IPO in history is saying it too. Sheryl Sandbergleaves work at 5:30pm to have daily dinner with her family and you can too.
I’ve lived this so I know how hard it is. My husband has lived it too. It’s time for dads to come home for dinner.
My husband wasn’t a nine to fiver, far from it. He is a serial venture backed entrepreneur, and when we lived in New York he ran a 100 person firm that he founded. When he was in his twenties he was an up-all-night entrepreneur. But, once he became an up-all-night dad (raising a now 6, 4, and 19 month old) working all hours was no longer an option. He still tried and we argued about it a lot in the early years. He lived in a culture where burning the midnight oil was not only expected, but celebrated.
But two years in, he realized that he had to leave the office, like Sandberg, at 5:30pm to be home for dinner by six every day. A combination of pressure from me and his own observations of the difference between when he was there and when he wasn’t, and what it meant to his kids’ lives and his own, and he made the home for dinner commitment.
But it wasn’t easy at all. He felt uncomfortable leaving the office when his employees were still there and partners would occasionally make comments to him directly about it. He had no idea how frequently they said things out of earshot, but he imagined it was often. His commitment to nightly dinners meant not booking any meetings past 4pm and not extending unnecessary conversations during the day. I distinctly remember one of his venture capitalists telling him, “We invest in entrepreneurs with cots in their offices, not the kind who leave by 5:30.” Undeterred, my husband stuck to his guns and went on to prove that his family friendly hours didn’t interfere with his performance.
Sandberg describes her early-departure-associated behaviors, waking up before sunrise to send the first email of the day, and intentionally staying up late so she can be the last email in her colleagues’ inbox. That’s the world of the working mom and, as Sandberg makes sure to emphasize in the 54 second interview racing across the internet, of the working dad as well.
If just the fact that your kids do better with a mom and dad at the dinner table is not reason enough, then consider that a transformation in our work culture is vital to our economy. Women are 50% of the United States workforce and seventy percent of these women are moms. Yet women attrite at a significantly higher rate than men. The overwhelming majority, however, would rather stay in the workforce (93% who do leave would like to go back) but our male dominated (in executive ranks) office culture make these women feel out of place in the very workforce that depends on them.
Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, there is now a new definition of the workday. Though my husband faced many roadblocks to his 5:30 departures, he encountered some encouraging people along the way. When he met with a former CEO of a huge bank and relayed to him his working dad lifestyle, this icon said to him, “My greatest regret is not having made it home to dinner with my family each night.”
It’s time for you to get home to dinner.
Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author, media personality and speaker, passionate about helping working moms to design a successful and happy lifestyle. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @samanthaettus.
To read this article on Forbes, please click here.
Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author & corporate speaker. The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction will be released in September.