Quick Take:

Summit tackles work-life issues

Summit tackles work-life issues

     During his tenure as a U.S. senator, Joe Biden put his family obligations first -- and nearly paid a political price.

     He was ranked among senators with the worst voting records. This created an opening for opponents, the vice president recalled during the June 23 White House Summit on Working Families.
     Soon, political advertisements appeared, asking, “Would you hire a man who only showed up 87 percent of the time?”
     Biden responded with a commercial confronting the issue: “Look, it is true. I missed whatever it was 13, 15 percent of the votes. And if you elect me again, I will do it again. I’m serious. And I said, 'I will never miss a vote that makes a difference. But if I have a choice between a procedural vote and my child’s parent-teacher meeting, I’m going to the meeting.'” 
     He was re-elected.
     It's a great story and perfect for the summit, which covered topics that included raising the minimum wage, the wage gap between women and men, and the need for paid family leave. But beyond Biden's story is an intractable issue that many workers find profoundly troublesome: how to balance family responsibilities while nurturing a career.
     In a report last year on Modern Parenthood, the Pew Research Center found that in most households both parents work at least part time. Also, "roughly equal shares of working moms and working dads say it is difficult to balance work and family responsibilities. Fully 40 percent of working mothers and 34 percent of working fathers say they 'always feel rushed.'"
     But the survey found that working moms and dads have different priorities when it comes to work. Consider that 70 percent of mothers who work place a premium on  a flexible work schedule, compared with  48 percent of fathers. On the other hand, 40 percent of dads thought a high-paying salary was important, while only 30 percent of moms said the same.
     Many parents believe they are not spending enough time with their children. Dads are more likely to worry about this, according to Pew. Indeed, 46 percent of dads and 23 percent of moms said they spend "too little" time with their children.
     For years, working parents have been told that it is not the quantity of time but the quality of time they spend with their family that matters.
     Biden dismissed this.    
     “Give me a break,” he said, exasperated. “There’s not one important thing that my sons and daughter have said to me that came about when I said, ‘Now, we have quality time. Let’s go fishing.’  As parents, you know that to be the truth. The most incredible things your children say to you, ask of you, reveal to you, are in those moments that you don’t anticipate it -- moments that occur when you are reading a story at night.”
      He added, “Young kids can only hold an important idea for about 12 hours. You miss it, it’s gone.”  


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