"Am I a good father?" muses a shirt-sleeved, stubbled, 40-something executive in a recent ad for UBS. "Do I spend too much time at work? Can I have it all?" he wonders in only slightly smaller type. And an ad campaign for Hyundai that aired the same week shows a man abandoning his messy desk and heading for the elevator at the end of the day, to the consternation of his colleagues -- the voiceover asks "When did leaving work on time become an act of courage?"
Here are some questions these ads call to mind: Has the work/life balance become a man's issue now, and does that mean it will be taken more seriously? That things will get better? That it will be more than a couple of (m)ad men getting ahead of the zeitgeist, or catching up to it? Is this a trend, a fad or a passing fancy, just making a product "relevant" by highlighting an issue that everyone talks about but very few do much to solve? Will men be emboldened to lean back as women have been to lean in -- and will their careers suffer? And what does it mean that a few companies are offering generous paternity leave, while many that provide maternity leave provide, at most, an average of two weeks off, often with no salary?
I don't have the answers, except one that's decades old and has failed in the U.S. every time it's been brought up in Congress, State of the Union messages or politicians running for office: Available, affordable child care as a national priority. The solution isn't working your kids' lives away or ignoring them right now in order to secure their future, as the USB ad suggests, or taking a ride in a zippy car (without car seats, one feels compelled to add) instead of slaving away when you might be putting in overtime to secure your job. It's as simple as making it possible for everyone -- men and women -- to have it all.