5 work-life balance tips for new working dads
Worried that your new (or impending) status as a father is going to put a dent in your career ambitions? Worry not. Many men worse than you have done a bang-up job (hi!).
Here are some tips to help you keep your sanity.
According to Time magazine, 85% of fathers today aspire to fully share parenting with their spouses. This has lead to a major shift from our parent’s generation, with fathers now spending triple the time caring for their children, and doing twice the amount of housework. So how do you work as much as your father while spending more time with the family?
You can start by setting short- and long-term priorities.
What do you want to get out of your day? And more importantly, what does success mean to you? Do you want to be the coach of your kid’s little league team? Or are you looking to take over a captain of industry’s corner office? Knowing the answer to these questions can help you make important choices.
The other thing to remember is that it’s not really possible to achieve a zen-like balance between career and family. It’s an unrealistic ideal that can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.
“It’s really a misconception that you can juggle work and family,” says Alan Kearns, career coach and founder of CareerJoy. “You’ll find that it’s easy to not meet the expectations of your partner and your firm. Finding that “balance” takes practice and failure before you can eventually master that fine art,” he says.
Make the most of your time
I once moved to London, England, with nothing more than a work visa and a change of clothes. “I’ll figure things out when I get there,” I said, like an idiot.
When my son was born, I suddenly found myself doing things like preparing meals and laying out clothes ahead of time, if only to squeeze an extra 30 minutes of productivity at work (or play time with him). I also got lazier, in a good way, setting up direct payments for bills, and using Amazon for just about anything that could be sent by mail.
If you plan ahead, you can work “smarter, not harder,” as the expression goes.
You’ll also want to take advantage of your child’s naps – especially on the weekend. These are near miraculous windows of time, free of diaper changes and rampaging toddlers. Use this time to make some headway on upcoming work projects.
Talk to your partner
Unlike my father, and his father (and pretty much every other father in our ancestral line), I watched the birth of my son, trying in vain to offer some semblance of support to my wife. She claims I was helpful, but I have my doubts. Either way, when you’re in the delivery room, you see things; things that can never be unseen (Robbie Williams once referred to it as “watching your favourite pub burn down”).
Once you have that experience, it’s hard to bring up some of the issues you’re having trouble with (like endless fatigue, and a feeling of unfulfilled career ambitions). You won’t feel worthy, in other words. Look what she had to do!
Still, for your sake, and the sake of your family, you need to be open and honest. Does he or she feel that you’re involved and contributing? Are you finding that you can’t put the necessary effort into work? Have the conversation, no matter how difficult it might seem.
Switch off from technology when home
When I don’t have my phone, I feel like I’m going into cardiac arrest. My ears start twitching and my chest aches. It’s a problem, I know.
Still, when my son was born I realized I needed to switch off when I got home. Apart from cutting down on social media and news, this meant no reading (or responding to) work email, no matter how urgent it seemed (newsflash: it’s never really that urgent). Not only did this ensure that I spent more time with my son and wife (suckers!), it also freed up time for hobbies and errands.
If all this sounds like blasphemy to the phone addicts out there (I count myself among you), take note that the winds of change are blowing. France passed an employment law last year that barred work email after hours, guaranteeing employees a “right to disconnect.” Organisations in France with more than 50 employees now have to establish hours when staff can send or answer emails.
Discussing the reasons behind the law, French legislator Benoit Hamon claimed employees “leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash—like a dog.”
Drop the leash dude.
Discuss flex work options with your boss
According to the Modern Families Index report, many fathers are concerned “that their workplace culture means flexible employees are seen as less committed.” This is a valid concern, but one that runs counter to changes in the modern workforce.
A survey conducted in 2014 suggested that 88 per cent of Canadian businesses offered employees flexible work arrangements. And the last time StatsCan weighed in on the subject (in 2010), they found that more than 1.7 million Canadians worked from home, which was a 23 per cent increased from the year 2000.
All this to say that opinions on the subject have definitely shifted, and it’s worth bringing the topic up – no matter how you might be perceived.
For Kearns, this kind of work flexibility is key for new working dads.
“Our approach with clients is not to look for “balance” but to seek out an integrated strategy that involves giving more control over when and how work is delivered,” he says, adding that in the end, you have to just go with the flow when it comes to “balancing” your career and family.
“It’s a give and take, and sometimes you’re going to get it wrong. Just make sure you learn from those mistakes.”