Tips for Working Dads
Lots of tips for working dads. Everyone talks about working moms, but what about working dads? Dads need advice on balancing work and home life too.
Most Dads are working dads. It's easy to forget that dads need to balance work and home life too. Times have changed and dads aren't just breadwinners. Hopefully they are equal parents too.
I'm a working Mom, but I'm the main breadwinner, working in a professional corporate job with all the demands that entails. My partner works too and I'm careful not to put more responsibility for childcare onto him. It would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that my job is 'more important' and that he should take more responsibility for the kids.
I know that as a man my partner sometimes finds it harder to work flexibly. It isn't so common and there's an assumption that it's the Mom that takes time off for sick children and school events. He does it anyway and I think the kids benefit hugely from equal parenting.
I also work with a lot of men with wives who don't work. They feel the full responsibility of earning money and often have a very unequal relationship with their kids.
I'll share some ideas on how you can be a working dad and an equal parent.
But I need to Work Late
Needing to work late is a very common problem for me. I work for an international company and there's always someone wanting to get hold of me night and day. Evening conference calls and late meetings are very common.
Here are the techniques I use to deal with this:
- Delegate the call to someone else. A call that feels like a nuisance to me might actually be valuable to someone more junior. I tell them what I want from the meeting and give them my authority. This only works for some kinds of meeting, but it's a useful technique.
- Ask for the meeting to be moved to a more convenient time. You may not even need to say why if you don't feel comfortable doing so. "Sorry I can't make that time, I need to be somewhere else."
- Join the meeting but take the corresponding time off. I use this technique a lot. I'll join an early evening conference call and miss time with my kids. But then I'll leave early another day and take them to the park. This works really well. I don't feel hard done by for attending the call and the kids don't miss out on any time with me.
- Say no. I find this one really hard. But sometimes you just have to say no. I do say no to recurring meetings in an evening slot. It's not worth it. My kids haven't seen me all day. They should get to spend time with me most evenings.
These techniques should be good for working dads too.
But I'm the Main or Only Earner
I hear this argument from male colleagues a lot. They work late regularly because they feel under pressure as the only breadwinner. I don't think this is a particularly healthy situation.
Of course women need to stay at home when they have tiny babies and while they are breastfeeding, but after that there's no reason why men and women can't share childcare equally.
My partner and I both work slightly reduced hours and we use childcare for three days a week. We could work shorter hours and not use childcare at all, but we happen to think that a moderate amount of childcare is brilliant for our kids.
I do understand the pressure to keep a good job and the difficulty getting flexible working arrangements in the current financial climate, but I do think that more working dads should reduce their hours.
Sometimes wives do work but earn less. In those situations it's very easy for the dad to justify working longer hours because their job is more important. I don't think this is a healthy attitude. It encourages a society in which dad's are more important at work and less important at home. Kids need time with their dads just as much as time with their moms.
I think that as a mom it's somewhat easier for me to take an equal share in childcare even though I'm the main earner. Or maybe it's harder for me not to do it! I wouldn't consider being the second parent just because I earn more money. Why should you?
Equally Shared Parenting
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Outsourcing for Working Dads
If you find that in addition to working long hours you spend lots of time doing chores at home at the weekend then consider if you can outsource those tasks so you can spend more time with your kids.
Can you pay someone to mow the lawn, look after the pool, wash your car, clean the house and decorate? Having a cleaner and a gardener has made life my less pressured for us. Yes, it costs money. But less money per hour that I earn. Something has to give somewhere.
If you're on a good professional salary then using a cleaning or pool service should be possible. If it's not then what are you working all those extra hours for ;-) Perhaps it's time to ask for a pay rise.
Talk about your Kids at Work
Talk to your colleagues about your kids so they are aware of them. They just might remember when scheduling a meeting and take it into account. Have photos on your desk and on your phone.
We all need to do our bit to ensure that it's possible to do a professional job when you have children. Pretending they don't exist doesn't help with this at all.
Will this be Important in 10 Years?
It has become somewhat of a cliche, but it's an effective technique. When I have a work-life balance dilemma, I often ask myself whether I'll consider the work or home activity important in 10 years time. This usually puts things in perspective.
If it's a genuinely important potentially career-making meeting, fair enough. Otherwise kids sports day wins.
If it's Not Working Change Something
If it's not working, change something. It should be possible for most people to get a reasonable balance between work and being a Dad. There will be trade-offs but you shouldn't feel that you are short-changing your kids.
Could you move closer to work? Getting rid of the commute makes a huge difference. How about changing your job? Could you work from home some or all of the time?
And finally, don't forget to enjoy your kids. It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget how lovely they are. (Well mine certainly are :-)