A time for Canada’s children (editorial)

Once upon a time men went to work and women stayed home and had 2.3 children.

It’s unfortunate that in the year 2000 some organizations still cling to that myth when it comes to addressing work-life issues.

Whether it’s two working parents, a single parent or one parent working full time and the other putting in equally taxing days staying at home, families are time crunched in ways never dreamed of in the 1950s, when only one salary provided for the American dream. And it’s not just parents, employees without children are also stressed to meet the demands of their jobs, while maintaining personal lives.

The stress of the modern world is the reason a group of concerned Canadians came together to launch Voices for Children, an organization looking to push back at corporate attitudes and policies that work against society. The organization’s October conference, Time for Children: Walking the Work-Life Tightrope, held in Toronto, was designed to both raise awareness of the issue and offer individuals and employers strategies and solutions for work-life balance.

Too many bosses hold the view that if staff have the resources and time needed to perform their tasks without stress, then they are not being as productive as they should. As a result children are growing up viewing work as a place that makes their parents miserable. And work demands have left too many children abandoned, with productivity gains made on the backs of the nation’s children.

Organizations often appear uncomfortable with the idea of children, whether it’s an unwillingness to pay more than lip service to family-friendly policies or the lack of any role models for work-life balance.

The big test is if there are senior executives modelling child-friendly behaviour.

CEOs, boards and members of the senior management team need to step up to the plate and provide concrete examples of how successful leaders can also be attentive parents. Corporate Canada is woefully lacking such role models.
Many senior executives will dismiss such “warm and fuzzy” sentiments, fortunately there are others to counter their attitudes.

No more poignant example can be found than that of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Nobody in the country should have a bigger workload than the Prime Minister, and yet as a single parent he always found time for his children.

His death focused a great deal of attention on the loving family surrounding him. Pictures of the former Prime Minister with his young sons by his side tore at the heart because behind the politician, the intellect, the teacher, the journalist and the lawyer was a parent who loved his children. While there is respect for his endeavours at home and abroad, it’s the human side of Trudeau the father that brings people to mourn his passing.

The fact that Trudeau loved his sons and that they were never far from his mind was evident to anyone who entered the Prime Minister’s office or spoke to him, friends related. And in his eulogy, his eldest son Justin moved the country with his description of a doting father.

For busy CEOs there is no stronger role model than a Prime Minister who left the nation memories of a cherished father.

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