12 Killer tips to Better Balance Family and Work

I want to be a great father and I want fulfilling career.  Do I have to choose one or the other?

Hell no!  I have two full-time jobs, one as wage earner and one as nurturing dad.  I want it all!

Fatherhood, while not always trumpeted in decades past, is now becoming a cool part of men’s identity.  We love this role, but working dads are stressed.

Every parent strives to meet the demands of work and family. 

We are too aware of the opportunity cost of long hours at work versus time bouncing on a trampoline, riding bikes, or playing catch.

We know spending time with our children is critically important to everyone’s self esteem but we also know that trampoline bouncing doesn’t pay the bills.

I hear you say, “I NEED to work!  Don’t my children know I am doing all of this for US? So we can eat and have nice things?”

I want to challenge you — Can you work smarter and have it all?

Many progressive companies offer part-time, flex time, job sharing, telecommuting, or a compressed week of longer workdays swapped for a day off.  Home offices and flexible work schedules should be helping make us better parents right?

The problem is that we are working longer hours than ever!  These work commitments ooze and slither into our family hours.

This new world of smart phones, laptops, texting, and instant messages adds so much new stress to our lives; we are always connected to the office.  Do we really need to be available 24/7?   Am I a bad person or bad worker if I don’t respond to a text or email within 60 seconds?

Can you turn off work and be dad?   Does your company help you do that?  Some do.

I love hearing about companies like Volkswagen and Pfizer (makers of Viagra) that have programs in place to disable company emails after work hours, so employees cannot send or receive emails, in theory, to turn work off to be with families.  (I guess Pfizer doesn’t want its employees up all night, just their customers!)

Fathers are now expected to be more active as parenting partners as well as helping more around the house.  That is where the great squeeze happens for the working parent.

We need and want to be all these things to all people; great dad, great partner, great worker, but we are tired.  So bloody tired and worn out.   Am I right brothers?  But we have the power to change things!  Today, right now….

Dads need to find a way to manage time so that they can take care of themselves professionally and personally, while also being a good partner and dad.

Here are a few ideas to better balance family and work life.    I borrowed the first 2 from Gayle Kaufman, author of “Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century.”

1. Evaluate your family’s needs.  Make a giant list of all the things you need to do for your family. It may seem overwhelming at first but it’s good to know all of your family responsibilities. Work together with your wife/partner so that you can best coordinate family tasks with work schedules.

2. Act as though your family deserves the same responsibility as your work.  You may need to change the way you see your family. A lot of people see work as something they need to do and family as something they want to do, but not you!  Not anymore mister!

3. Leave work at work.  Turn off your damn company phone.  You already put enough hours in at work.  When you leave work, don’t bring a stack of proposals or your laptop with you. Stop checking email every 15 minutes.  Throw your company phone in a basket by the door; only pick it up on the way back to work.

4. Take care of yourself!   Go to the doctor.  Get regular checkups, ask tough questions (I had a colonoscopy this past January, while quite an experience, I know it’s the mature, responsible thing to do).

5. Sleep.  How many good hours before midnight are you getting?  It’s amazing what an extra hour will do for my creativity and patience.  Who do you see last before bed?  Your partner or your computer?  If the last thing you do before bed is close your laptop, you are in trouble.  Turn that sucker off well before bed so you are not tempted to ‘jiggle the mouse’ to see if anyone needs you.

6. Do something for yourself guilt-free.  Dad needs some dad time.  Whatever that looks like, do something for you.  Have some guy time, hunt, thrift store shop, play poker, golf, read, play lawn dart tag with your beer buddies, whatever.  Do something to recharge yourself.

7. Take ALL of your VACATION days.  ‘Nuff said.  The world will keep turning while you are at Wally World.  You will come back recharged and ready to rock.   That is balance and bosses like employees that are aware of being in balance.

8. Simplify your life.  Start saying NO to things that are not priorities.   It’s amazing how much family time can be “made” but saying NO.

9. Have one meal a day together.   Whether its family dinner or even family breakfast, make that a top priority that cannot be broken or missed by anyone (including you!)

10. Reach out to other dads.  A much underused resource.  Other dads (and moms) are likely struggling with the same things you are.  Be brave and vulnerable you old sissy!

11. Find a family friendly workplace.  You need an employer which understands and will be friendly to your family commitments and support your work life balance priorities.   Some companies claim to be family friendly, but in reality are not.  While this is another article for another day, some dads report feeling “penalized” or “passed over” if they take advantage of family initiatives. They are afraid to be seen as “not pulling their weight”.  It’s unfair that if you want to climb up the corporate ladder successfully, you have to sacrifice your family!

12. And FINALLY, start having family night.  Set aside one night a week to be together, no interruptions, no phones, and no excuses.  Recharge your relationships with time!  Modified work schedules, say NO to things, and set aside other demands and spend the evening together as a family.

I always think of the dad that shared this story, “One day, my wife dropped me off at work and my three-year-old son said, ‘This is where Daddy lives.’  It broke my heart.”

The key to being a good father is putting your family first and let your actions speak louder than your words.  Maybe you should turn down that promotion or a higher paying job for better hours and less travel.   Paternity leave is an amazing idea!  DO it!

Dads need to be aware of the stress and cost of an unbalanced life and make changes. It’s hard work having it all. But it can be done.

Many dads in your neighbourhood are living the dream of family and life being in balance, but they understand the one key motto; Let your family influence your work life rather than the other way around.

Until next time!