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.
This is a post by Chris Brown, NFI's Executive Vice President.
Weve known for years now that the housework divide between dads and moms has decreased with dads doing more of the workload than ever. This development is good news because NFIs landmark national study on mothers attitudes about fathers and fathering called Mama Says
found that moms want dads to help out more around the house. But what do we know about the impact of dads doing more in this world of dual-income families who always seem to be multitasking and on the go?
While this closing of gap seems on the surface to be a great development that should have a positive impact on dads, moms, and kids, a recent study reported in the L.A. Times
suggests that this new picture of the dual-income American family isnt quite as rosy as the data suggest. This two-year study examined 500 working mom-dad families from 8 urban and suburban communities. Researchers found that dads and moms did an equal amount of paid and unpaid work but that moms did more multitasking at home than did dads. Moreover, moms experienced more stress than dads about their perceived lack of attention to their families this multitasking requires. Dads, in fact, received a psychological boost from their ability to handle home and work tasks (super dad) while moms felt guilty about the divided attention this kind of multitasking requires.
What should we make of this data, and how should dads and moms respond in these families? A closer look at the study suggests that moms and dads should multitask together (e.g. wash dishes, do the laundry, take the kids to the grocery store). Dads and moms tended to gravitate to different activities with their kidsa sort of divide and conquer strategy. Dads engaged in more focused, fun, interactive activities with their children while moms focused on more routine childcare tasks and doing more of them at the same time. But when moms and dads worked together around the house it reduced the stress for both parents. It seems that dads should take a step back and ask what more they can do around the home together with moms, right? The article suggests as much, but Im convinced the problem can't be resolved simply by dads and moms doing more work at home together, although that would certainly help.
Im convinced that working moms and dads need to reduce multitasking. A recent spate of research suggests that multitasking isnt all its cracked up to be. Weve come to believe that multitasking makes us more effective when, in fact, it makes us less effective. It divides and conquers families. Were much more effective and less stressed when we focus on doing one task at a time and doing it well whether at work or at home. Dads and moms cant be as present and engaged with their kids and with each other when they multitask. Dads must ask not what more they can do, but what less can they and mom can do individually, together, and with their children.
Does your company offer flexible working hours or telecommuting options to improve work-life balance for employees? As many as 85% of companies
offer some kind of flexible time arrangement, but a recent study
found that many workers don’t feel comfortable using these options.
According to “The Juggle” on The Wall Street Journal
, some employees say they have been discouraged in some form by their managers from taking advantage of flex time options or fear that they will lose respect or be perceived as “slacking” on the job.
This disconnect between employers’ claim to family-friendliness and what they do (or don’t do) to enable their employees to make use of work-family balance options is disheartening, and could end up working against the employers in the end. Studies have shown
that workers who have flexible working schedules are more satisfied with their job, experience less stress, have stronger loyalty to their company, and work harder. NFI has worked with a variety of companies
from Fortune 500 companies like KPMG, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and IBM, to smaller corporations to help them improve their Work-Family Balance policies. We believe that helping dads balance work and family is part of our mission to improve the well-being of children. When dads are able to adjust their working schedule to be more involved with their kids or at home, it helps moms too, who told NFI in a nationwide survey
that they could balance work and family better if they had more support from dads.
If supporting families isn’t important to companies (which it should be, and is for many companies), certainly the bottom line is. And the bottom line is strengthened when employees are enabled and encouraged to balance work and family. Work-family balance is a win-win-win for everyone: companies, employees, and children.Tell us about your experience. What kind of work-family balance options does your company offer? Do you feel like your company supports and encourages you to take advantage of those options?
Welcome to the first installment of our 10-week podcast series, Dads Playbook featuring NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell.
This week, NFI president Roland C. Warren sits down with Mark to talk about the challenge of balancing work and family.
According to NFIs two national surveys on attitudes about fathering (Pops Culture
and Mama Says
) both moms and dads think that the biggest obstacle to good fathering is work responsibilities.
You can imagine that being a professional athlete makes it even harder to be an involved dad year round. But Mark has some great advice to get you started on achieving balance.Click here to download the podcast on Marks game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to work-family balance
A recent survey
conducted by Chevrolet found that dads are taking a more active role in carpooling their kids to school, extracurricular activities, or daycare – 70% of dads are involved in this responsibility. Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that Dads prefer utility vehicles over minivans, the traditional choice for carpooling, opting for a more masculine / cool vehicle. Dads also value safety, fuel economy, versatility, and passenger capacity as top vehicle features.
At NFI, it’s no surprise to us that Dads are more involved in carpool duties. This is right in line with recent trends showing that Dads are taking more and more hands-on responsibility in caring for their kids and helping around the house. In fact, we’ve blogged about how dads and moms do the same amount of work
and how dads are key influencers in family purchase decisions
. NFI’s own Vince DiCaro certainly would agree with Chevrolet’s findings because he choose his SUV
for the practicality of carrying a car seat, dog, two adults, and lots of equipment.
The fact is, despite record levels of father absence in our country now – 24 million kids or 1 out 3 grow up without their father in the home – when dads are involved, they are more involved than they have ever been in almost every category. Take a look at these statistics (taken from "Marketing to Dads”, August 2010, Mintel.
- Dads have tripled the amount of time they spend on child care since 1965.
- Dads have become key influencers and decision makers in all categories of family purchasing, including groceries, financial investments, child and baby care items, and toys.
- One-third of men are the primary shopper in the home – in fact, 7 out of 10 disagree that mom does most of the shopping for the kids.
- Dads are spending a significant amount of time with their children engaging in play, cooking, and planning healthy and educational activities for their families.
Not only is this increased involvement good for kids – research shows that children who grow up with involved fathers fare better on almost all social, economic, educational, and physical measures and are less likely to be involved in crime, get pregnant, experience abuse, or drop out of school – but it’s also good for moms. In Mama Says
, NFI’s survey of mothers’ attitudes about fathering, a significant majority of moms said they could balance work and family better if they had more support from dad. Most likely, the extra help with carpooling from dads is a big plus for moms.
Props to Dads for stepping up and adding “taxi driver” to the many hats they already wear. And props to Chevrolet for taking the time to recognize dads’ increased role in taking responsibility for ensuring their kids get to where they need to go safely!
Forbes just published an interesting take on President Obama's vacation
. Putting politics aside, the article (by Lauren Stiller Rikleen) makes a good point about the importance of dads achieving work-family balance for their children's sakes.
I was struck by how simple yet profound this statement is: "...there are important lessons to be learned here about fatherhood. This is because the president is also the father of 2 young girls, both of whom have expectations about family time during the summer..."
When you think about fatherhood from the perspective of what children need, the story looks a little different. Amazingly, this is something we have to do often here at NFI - remind folks that fatherhood should not be thought about from the perspective of adults, but from that of children.
And when you do that in the context of work-family balance, it is clear that fathers are under a great deal of stress, and the environment needs to change to keep pace with fathers' deep desires to be more engaged in their children's lives.
Hopefully, folks will be able to see this particular lesson from the President's actions.
What do you think we can learn about work-family balance from the President's choice to go on vacation?
Husbands across the country can celebrate Time magazine has printed (on its cover no less!) that married men and women do the same amount of work each day! (Chore Wars, 8/8/11)This assertion is based on new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data that shows that when you combine paid (your job) and unpaid (child care and housework) work, married moms work only about 20 minutes more per day than married dads do, the smallest difference ever reported (in childless couples, men actually work - paid and unpaid - 8 minutes more per day than women!).While it has become popular for women to air their grievances about their lazy husbands and for the culture to permit them to do so, I think this data is not surprising to most people (is it?).As the article points out, when mom comes home and starts her second shift of caring for the children, it is because dad is still at work
working.In other words, just because dads first shift is longer than moms does not mean she is working more. She is working differently and, as most people also understand, she is often doing so by choice. As the writer of the story -- a working mom -- points out, she is exhausted by all the work she has to do because she decides to go home earlier than her husband does, and thus is the one who faces the children and messy house first.But despite this, married dads are putting in 53 minutes per day of child care three times more than they did in 1965 while moms put in 70 minutes per day (about the same as they did in 1965).But enough with the data. What is really going on here? Why do moms still feel overwhelmed?A few of us at NFI have long asserted that the reason moms feel overwhelmed is that they have a powerful desire to be the lead organizer/scheduler/chauffeur/referee/cook/etc in the home, regardless of how much they work, and they often do so at the expense of dads involvement. Sharon Meers, in her book Getting to 50/50, writes extensively about this.So, while dads have had to make room in the workplace for moms, moms have not been expected to (nor have they often been willing to) make room for dad in the home to the same extent. Clearly, out of necessity, working moms have had to allow dads to get more involved, but the fact that women still feel overwhelmed is a testament to the idea that they sometimes cant let go of their traditional dominion over all things domestic.So, really, the debate is no longer about time, but about turf -- and moms want to retain their home turf advantage.This leaves dads in a transitional space in which they are expected to do a little more at home (but not too much!), and still be full partners at work. Thus, we have dads feeling even more work-family conflict than moms do! (see the Time article)So, while it is helpful to have data that shows that dads are not slackers, we still have a problem to solve: how can we help moms feel more comfortable ceding some of their home turf to dads?
Hamish McLennan recently stepped down as global chairman and chief executive of Young & Rubicam, a major advertising agency. He talked about why he stepped down in this piece from Bloomberg Businessweek
One of the key lines from the piece is this: "My daughter is 13, and my son is 11... I don't want them to leave home and say, 'Well, you had a great career, but we don't know you.'"
To say the least, it takes a lot of guts just to realize this, and then it takes even more guts to actually take action on it by leaving a position that was surely earning him a lot of money.
However, McLennan is not alone in how he surely felt before making this brave decision. Research is now showing that fathers feel MORE work-family conflict than mothers do. And most companies still view work-family conflict as an issue they must resolve for women, not for men.
But there are efforts afoot, backed by a diverse set of organizations, to address how these issues deeply affect working fathers. Stay tuned for more on what NFI is doing in this area.
But for now, the best way to learn about this issue is to simply listen to the words of Mr. McLennan, who says at the end of the article, "At 44, I'd rather be known as a good father than a good CEO."
Wise words. In fact, it is probably a good exercise to say to yourself, "I'd rather be known as a good father than a good (fill in the blank)," because whatever you can fill in the blank with is probably less important than being a good dad.
Author Michael McQueen shared with us what he is thankful for in this guest blog post. Micheal's book,
Memento, is a great resource to help fathers pass down their legacy to their children. Learn more about Michael and the Memento story here.
My dad was one of most organized people I have ever met. He started every day with a task list numbered in descending order of importance, along with a carefully orchestrated schedule with hourly breakdowns. As a family of 7, I guess dad needed to be as organized as he was there was always someone who needed to be dropped off at soccer practice, swimming lessons, or scouts.
What I loved and respected most about my dad though is that in the midst of all this busyness and his drive to make the most of every hour of the day, he was never too busy for me, my brothers, and our mom. Sure, hed have times of being distracted and unavailable like every father (and human being), but when it mattered, he was there physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I am so thankful for the priority he placed on family and the things that mattered.
I am so thankful for the example he set.
He may not be with us any longer, but the example of his lived-out priorities, not the checklist of this accomplishments, is what I remember and am thankful for most.To join the campaign, visit www.fatherhood.org/thethankfulcampaign or tweet with the hashtag #thanksdad.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.
There are at least two myths that are generally accepted as truth within the community of men. The first is amusing. Its that fantasy football is real. Look, I know some guys who prepare for the real fantasy football season with the determination, focus and secrecy of General Eisenhower planning for D-Day.
The second myth is that men have mastered the art of compartmentalizing their emotions so that they dont affect a guy's performance. Well, if you have been following Tiger Woods play recently, this myth is being dispelled before your eyes. Tiger is indeed in a "rough" and its going to take more than his trusty sand wedge to get him out of it. Make no mistake that men are whole people and what happens in Vegas never stays there. The consequences always follow you home.
That said, I think that the writer of this article makes some valid points when he suggests that Tiger needs to focus more on straightening out his fathering than trying to hit a straighter and longer shot from off the tee. Ironically, fathering is a lot like hitting a tee shot on the PGA tour. There are no mulligans. You only get one chance to get it right.