Fathers Gained Family Time in the Pandemic. Many Don’t Want to Give It Back.

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Ryan McCarty, the Cincinnati branch director for the employment agency Robert Half, was away from home for 13 hours a day before the pandemic, including evening events and his 45-minute commute. Now he works from home, which he said has enabled him to be there for his two toddlers for meals, doctor visits and milestones. One took his first steps in the middle of a weekday morning. Mr. McCarty is there in a video of it, in a button-down shirt and sweatpants, having run out from his home office to witness it.

“For the longest time, it was: The male is the provider,” he said. “I was that guy. But now I’m not ashamed to say this is who I am in my life. That’s what Covid did. We had a lot of downtime to reflect and think about what’s important.”

As a recruiter, he has noticed that men now regularly ask about flexibility. A recent client told him that his priority was meeting his child at the bus at 3:30 p.m., and that he’d give up pay to do that.

“You would never have heard that out of anybody’s mouth,” he said. “Never. And now it’s commonplace. It’s not a sign of weakness anymore.”

Ben Campbell, the father of two daughters under 5 in Smithville, Texas, got used to spending time with his children during the day when his sales job went remote at the start of the pandemic. So in a later job, when a boss commented on how often he had parenting obligations, he responded, “Yeah, and that’s not going to change.”

He said it makes a big difference that his current employer, AffiniPay, is led by a mother who talks to staff about juggling work and family. He now works from home four days a week, and his wife is also remote. On breaks, they run child-related errands, or their children show them the artwork they made with their nanny. They couldn’t imagine giving that up if they worked in offices full-time.