Working Fathers: 67% of Dads Struggle To Balance Work and Parenting [Survey]

In honor of Father’s Day, the FinanceBuzz team wanted to understand how working fathers balance a professional schedule with family commitments. To find out, we surveyed 1,000 Americans.

Young father working from home and babysitting his baby boy in the same time.
Updated June 7, 2024
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Any working parent could tell you that the phrase “family first” is not as simple as it sounds. With finite time and energy, working parents face a constant negotiation between family time and work time, and navigating what happens when the two intersect.

In honor of Father’s Day, our team at FinanceBuzz wanted to learn more about how working parents balance a busy professional schedule with their family commitments. To do this, we surveyed 1,000 Americans about the perceptions of working fathers, common issues dads face, and how these dads feel about growing their careers and family lives at the same time.

In this article

Key findings

  • Paternity and maternity leave are held to different standards. 26% think fathers are perceived negatively in the workplace for taking their full paternity leave, versus just 15% for mothers taking maternity leave.
  • Being a parent while balancing a career isn’t always well-received. One in four (25%) respondents believe that leaving work to pick up a sick kid affects fathers negatively in the workplace.
  • Many dads are having FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). 67% report feeling guilty for missing parts of their child(ren)’s life during the workday.
  • How companies can better support dads. 65% of working fathers said they don’t feel their employers offer enough support for dads in the workplace.

How fatherhood is perceived in the workplace

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 60 million fathers in the workforce. For those dads, that means trying to be present for their kids while also doing well at their jobs. But what happens when there’s a call from the school nurse, or a 5 p.m. baseball practice? Conflict is inevitable.

We asked our survey respondents to evaluate a number of common parenting issues and share how these common events reflect on working dads. Specifically, we asked if they thought dads were perceived positively, negatively, or neutrally in various circumstances.

A chart showing how people perceive fathers in the workplace when they do various things for either their family or themselves.

Overall, there was a wide range of tolerance levels for common parenting issues, although at least one quarter (25%) of respondents said they think fathers are perceived negatively in all of the scenarios we presented.

The results were also inconsistent — 25% of respondents feel that it affects fathers negatively when they leave work to pick up a sick kid, while 33% (one in three) say dads are perceived negatively for taking off an entire day to take care of ill children.

When it came to self care, Americans were split: 30% feel there’s a negative perception of dads taking a mental health day, while 33% think people perceive it positively. Compare that to the 42% of respondents who feel mental health days for mothers are perceived positively.

The most egregious conflicts we saw involve some level of choice. One-third (33%) feel negatively about dads attending school functions during the day. And the worst thing dads can do, according to respondents, is have their children appear in video calls. More than half (51%) said it’s a negative when kids show up in dad’s Zoom meeting.

Views on paternity and maternity leave

Even though paid parental leave isn’t federally mandated in the U.S. (one of the few countries in the world where it’s not), it’s still a common practice to allow some amount of paid time off after a child arrives. But do people regard maternity and paternity leave equally?

A chart about perceptions of paternity versus maternity leave in the United States.

Even if more companies add paternity leave benefits for dads, there could be some risk to using it. 26% of respondents said there’s a negative perception of dads who take parental leave after the arrival of a child, versus only 36% who said people view this positively. That’s nearly double the rate of respondents who said that moms are perceived negatively for taking leave.

Do working fathers feel valued?

We asked respondents whether they thought working fathers get adequate credit for the effort they put into balancing work and family responsibilities. Then we specifically asked dads the same question.

Side-by-side charts showing how all respondents and parents specifically feel about how much working dads are appreciated.

Overwhelmingly, it’s clear that Americans feel dads aren’t recognized enough for their sacrifices. 55% of respondents said they think working fathers don’t get enough credit, while 30% think they get plenty. The remaining 15% believe working fathers get too much credit.

Of note, the perception from dads themselves was slightly bleaker. 61% of working dads report feeling undervalued, while 34% said they feel properly valued. Consistent with this, nearly two in three fathers (65%) reported that they don’t feel their employers offer enough support for dads in the workplace.

What working parents feel guilty about

When parenting responsibilities and work responsibilities conflict, do dads feel guilty for choosing one over the other? We asked dads to share how guilty (or not) they feel when these decisions arise.

A chart showing how guilty working dads say they feel for missing out on various family responsibilities or events.

When it comes to conscience, it’s apparent that family really does come first. Two in three dads (67%) reported feeling guilty for missing parts of their child(ren)’s life during the workday, as well as after-school activities like sports and recitals.

But don’t think working dads don’t also feel loyalty to their jobs. Nearly half (46%) of dads said they feel guilty for taking time off work to be with their families, and 41% report having felt guilty for taking time off to care for a sick child.

Money management and budgeting for working parents

It’s expensive to financially support a growing family. For ideas on how to save some extra money to credit card assessments, here are some tips and resources to help you wrangle your finances.

  • Planning for a family vacation can include earning rewards. Many travel credit cards for families offer great welcome offers, valuable rewards, and reasonable annual fees.
  • Earn extra income on the side. There are several side hustles that parents can work as part of their busy routines, such as food shopping and delivery.
  • Enroll your loved ones in their own savings accounts. Open a savings account for your kid(s) to teach them how to save money at a young age. They can earn compound interest over time.


To compile the research shown above, FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 Americans in May 2024 through the survey platform Pollfish. Respondents did not need to be parents in order to take the survey, although in some places we did segment data from parents to compare their results with those of non-parents.