The days of the sitcom dad are gone.
Remember watching those old TV shows where dad just came home from work, kicked off his shoes, and pretty much just chilled out while mom made dinner and took care of the kids? Those days are deader than disco. In 2016, fathers are expected to be active and contribute to housework and their kids’ lives, and many dads don’t think they’re doing enough.
According to a study from the Families and Work Institute, 60% of working fathers believed they had serious work-family conflicts, as compared to 47% of working mothers. A well-publicized 2013 Pew research study showed 46% of fathers thought they didn’t get enough time with their kids, as opposed to 23% of working mothers.
So dads clearly are in a work-life balance crisis. And, yes, having kids makes finding that balance a lot more difficult for fatherpreneurs. But it’s not impossible. Here are ten tips to help dads achieve work-life balance and spend more time with family.
Make Appointments With Your Kids
Seeing the disappointment on your child’s face might be the only thing more heart-tugging than a late-night Sarah McLachlan commercial. So if you tell your kid that every Tuesday night is Daddy-Daughter Taco Tuesday night, you’re going to make that date. Make specific appointments with your kids to do things and you’ll be very unlikely to ever push them off for anything.
Leave Work at Work to Make the Most of Your Home Time
You bringing work home is kind of like your kids bringing home a stray dog; you might not see anything wrong with it, but the other party involved won’t understand it at all. When you’re home, your attention needs to be on your children, not your phone or your email or a conference call in Singapore. If that means you go in to work early or stay late to make sure you’re still employed, so be it. But once you walk through the front door at home, your new boss is about 4’3” and very loud.
Cut Wasted Time from Everywhere Else
Do you really need to go to that sit-down restaurant for lunch every day? Or spend two hours in the gym. Maybe bringing in a few more salads will necessitate less gym time, and the time you save from both will free up time to spend with your kids! Commuting is also horribly inefficient. Families often live far from work so they can afford a bigger house … that they never see. Don’t undersell the family time you’ll lose commuting, and see if you can work a little earlier or later to avoid traffic.
Work When Your Kids Are Sleeping
The “eight hours of sleep” ship sailed the minute you decided to have children. So until they’re surly teenagers and don’t want any of your attention, you’re going to need to either get up early or stay up late. This could be to get work done that you didn’t take home (but totally did anyway) or to take care of personal business, or to just spend time with your partner. But either way, figure out if you’re a morning person or a night owl, and add those extra hours back to your day then.
Prioritize Family Events
A Wednesday night soccer game can be missed. A kindergarten graduation cannot. Your children will, eventually, understand that maybe you can’t make it to every event, but choose wisely what you go to. If necessary, family events that are repeated are probably the ones to skip; once-in-a-lifetime stuff is not. This means prioritizing which work events you attend as well.
Remember, It Is a Team Effort
It’s not 1955 anymore, which means your wife probably has a job too, and you better know how to cook, clean and do laundry. Family responsibilities – both financial and domestic – are more often shared now, so doing more housework or cooking or driving kids to daycare is part of your job description as a dad. Giving your wife that balance and time to spend with the children and, hopefully, she’ll return the favor.
Take Vacation Time
Americans, on average, only take half of their allotted vacation days every year. And when you have kids, that’s absolutely inexcusable. Even if you can’t afford to take your family on vacation, use those days to just stay at home and be a dad. Or use them for child emergency days. Or to just give yourself a break. Vacation days are there to give you work-life balance, so take full advantage of them.
Talk to Your Employer About Your Family
You’re not working for Darth Vader, so there is no reason to be afraid of asking for what you want. Problems arise when you don’t adequately communicate what you need in terms of work-life balance. If you let your employer keep you from your family, they’ll continue to do it. So explain how much time you need to spend with your family, and while you may not get all you want, most reasonable employer will work with you to get some sort of balance.
Really Think About Promotions
Perhaps the great urban philosopher Biggie Smalls put it best when he said “Mo money, mo problems.” Because while a promotion might seem like a fantastic way to make more money for your family, it’s not like you’re getting that money for nothing. It probably comes with more responsibility, AKA more work and less time with your family. Maybe the money is essential and will alleviate some stress. But if all it gets you is a bigger TV and the 2017 model of your 2012 SUV, really examine if that’s worth the time you may lose with your kids.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
Dads have to be great time managers. And not scheduling your days, weeks, and even months is the best way to ensure you don’t get anywhere close to work life balance. Much like with budgeting, sit down and think about all the things you need to get done, both at work and at home, and make a timeline for all of it. You might not stick to it 100%, but if you have a plan, you’ll be a lot more likely to succeed.
Nobody said it was easy to be a hard-working dad and maintain work-life balance. By re-prioritizing and following these ten tips, you may improve your family life without cutting into your professional duties. Give it a try. After all, there is nothing more important than your family.