I Don't Know How He Does It! Exploring the work-family dynamic of involved fathers

The Centre for Work, Organisation and Society warmly invite you to join Deborah Hamer-Acquaah, Postgraduate Student at the University of Essex as she explores the topic of working fathers and managing fatherhood.

  • Wed 30 Oct 19

    12:00 - 13:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Deborah Hamer-Acquaah, University of Essex

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    CWOS Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Dr Sophie Hales

The key aims of this seminar are; to discuss the choice of a narrative approach to interviewing respondents for this study, to discuss the research findings, especially the nature of father involvement and how it has changed for respondents at different life stages and finally to explore some of the challenges facing fathers in seeking to blend work with family commitments and unearth the strategies they use to overcome these.

Seminar abstract

In this presentation Deborah will examine how working fathers experience and manage fatherhood.

Fathers are involved in their children's lives in a variety of ways well beyond being a mere economic provider (Lamb, 2000; Dyer et al, 2018) However, few studies have actually explored the quality of father involvement in real depth, or the reasons why might want or need to be so involved in the lives of their children.

What studies have thus far focused on are the time mothers and fathers spend with their children (Pleck et al, 1987), or the transition to fatherhood life-stage (Miller, 2011; Henwood and Procter, 2003; Höfner et al, 2003).

Organisations generally recognise the transition into fatherhood in the form of paternity leave, but thereafter, fatherhood is expected to be invisible and, in particular, to not interfere with men's work, career or priorities. Fatherhood however develops and changes as children grow. some children may be particularly demanding of time and resources.

More attention needs to be paid to the father who seek to balance these competing spheres of life; work and children.

If the changing needs of fathers were understood and recognised, organisational policies and practices could be developed to meet these dynamic needs.

This presentation, given at the end of the second year of part-time study for a PhD, follows a period of data collection spanning April - October 2019, where qualitative, narrative approach was taken to understand how and why father involvement change as children grow up to reach adulthood, and how fatherhood intersects with the father's working life.

Is close involvement merely a lifestyle choice or a need for (some) fathers? and (how) do organisations recognise and manage this particular subgroup of employees?

Flexible work policies aim to address work-life balance issues and recognise the demands of parenting but such policies tend to assume the 'parent' to be the mother. Many fathers feel marginalised or ignored and frustrated by flexible work policies (Burnett et al, 2013; Orecklin et al, 2004).

This study aims, at this stage, to explore the framing of parenting in organisational policies and how fathers are responding to this phenomenon. Interviews have unveiled some of the overt and stealth strategies they employ to gain more recognition and time for being fathers.

Deborah has drawn on two sets of empirical materials;

  1. Interviews with a number of working fathers who are heavily involved in the day to day care of their children because of job changes, disability, mental health or marriage break down.
  2. ethnographic observation of a particular group of professional fathers whose children are talented at sports, such as rugby and football, and plat at demanding youth academies or at national level

Both of these situations in difference ways and under differing conditions of possibility involve major time, energy and financial commitment on the part of the father and whole families. 

The question of how and why these fathers make this investment whilst themselves working in full-time demanding roles need to be examined better to understand the demands of as well as the values attached to fatherhood by professional men.

This discussion reflects on the implications of fatherhood involvement for families and organisations, extending knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing fathers who work.


This seminar is free to attend. Please bring your friends, colleagues and classmates along.

Speaker bio

Deborah Hamer-Acquaah is currently in the second year of her PhD in Management at the University of Essex.

Her supervisors are Dr Pasi Ahonen and Professor Melissa Tyler

Aside from working on her PhD part-time, Deborah is a full-time lecturer in Business Management and Marketing at Queen Mary, University of London, where she is a convener for 3 international foundation programme modules.

As a working parent of three sons, Deborah is interested in the ongoing, changing nature of the challenges that face involved parents at different life-stages.

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