The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
Have you ever marveled at the person who seems to get a ton of work done and still has time for family? You know, the person who seems to "have it all.” The person who excels at work and at home and who even has the time to volunteer for their favorite cause.
I’ve often struggled to balance work and family. That’s right. Even those of us dads who have dedicated their careers to family strengthening face the same challenges as any other dad. We have to toe a fine line of hypocrisy. I remember a day in 2007 when my oldest daughter, who was 12 at the time, was struggling emotionally. She was depressed. I returned home after a week-long trip speaking at a conference and training staff of organizations on how to help fathers be better dads. She started to cry after I walked in the door. We went into the backyard and talked for what seemed like a couple of hours. It took a while, but she finally revealed the source of her pain. It was me. I was traveling too much, and she missed me.
One of the consequences of being an involved dad is that when you’re not around as often, your children miss you. This was a time when I traveled a lot speaking at conferences and training facilitators on our programs and on how to build capacity to effectively serve fathers. I knew that it was hard on my children and my wife, but I didn’t know just how hard it was.
Fortunately, my daughter had the courage to tell me that I needed to be home more, and I listened. I asked her what she thought was a reasonable amount of time for me to be gone. I negotiated for a maximum number of travel days each month based on her input.
I’m known for being productive. Some people even tell me that I’m “extremely” productive. (I can only hope I’m just as effective.) I rise by 4:30 AM on the weekdays, work out for an hour to an hour and a half, start work by 6:00 AM, and usually get in a 10-hour day. That schedule allows me to care for myself, get a lot of work done, and still have time for family. I’m fortunate in that I work from home. I don’t have to struggle with long commutes that sap personal and family time. The biggest factor, however, in my ability to balance work and family is a flexible employer.
Working for a flexible employer is one of many tips for balancing work and family offered by Robert C. Pozen in Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. (Pozen is one of those people who is an answer to the question I posed at the start of this post. I pale in comparison.)
Here are 11 tips for balancing work and family, a combination of those offered by Pozen and offered in NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ program.
- Look for employers that provide flexibility on when and where you work, and that offer paid leave for childbirth and other life events.
- Commit every day to leaving work early enough to have dinner or spend time with your family.
- Be assertive to obtain more flexibility. Assure your boss that you will get work done even if you take an hour out of the day to take your child to the doctor.
- Show your family commitment at work by displaying things like family photos and your children’s artwork. These displays will show your co-workers and boss that you’re committed to family.
- Make career decisions as a family. When you have an opportunity to change jobs or move laterally or up in your company or organization, talk with mom and your children (if your children are old enough) about the new commitments that will come with the opportunity, especially if those commitments will affect family time.
- Keep family commitments as sacred as work commitments—even more so. Avoid missing a family commitment because something comes up at work. The more often you keep your family commitments, the more likely your co-workers and your boss will be to respect them.
- If you and mom both work outside the home and can’t reduce your office hours (e.g. to spend more time with the children), look to friends and family to help out (e.g. watch the children when they come home from school).
- When you are with your family, avoid all but the most critical interruptions from work. Most work issues can wait until the next day.
- If you must bring work home, create a separate time and place to do the work. Your mind needs to move from you as a professional to you as a family member.
- Create a daily block of time for family called “family prime time.” Turn off your mobile devices, computers, and keep work off-limits during this time.
- Create and sign a “family contract.” Have your children and mom sign it, too. Put in writing that you’ll balance success at work with success at home. Read this contract at the start of every week to remind you of your commitment.