“Many men still feel they need to be the provider and gets them stuck in their roles… This is a universal challenge – how can we be a good dad and have a successful career?” Scott Behson
Working dads today are faced with unique challenges – as well as opportunities – that previous generations never had. The pressures and expectations of what it means to be a modern father come from many angles – society encourages them to do more at home and workplaces (on the whole) haven’t changed a lot in terms of accepting men have caring responsibilities outside of work. Most women also have their own careers to build and therefore the caring and household duties need to be more equally shared, which changes the goal posts from men being the primary financial provider to so much more.
In our latest special event webinar Parents At Work interviewed Scott Behson – working dad advocate and US author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home. Scott talked about how the family unit and more equality in the home is changing for the better however there are still some big hurdles to overcome before many organisations catch up to the family role changes.
Despite the changes that still need to be made there is still much dads can do to help them manage a successful career and be a present, emotionally connected father.
9 top practical tips for how the working dads of today can achieve work-life balance
1) Revisit your vision and values
What is important to you? Take some time to think through what your priorities are… a full life means taking care of yourself, your social needs, being part of your community, whatever else is important to you. Ask yourself: how can I make our time with our family more memorable? Would blocking out time (more precisely, ‘screen time’) for family – say 1 hour each evening – take the pressure off trying to always find precious ‘moments’ in a day to connect with your kids?
2) Make a business case for working flexibly
Make the business case for flexible working and take it to your manager. If you understand the benefits to the business you’re much more likely to succeed in your request. Before you go to your manager ask yourself: “What am I tolerating that isn’t working? Am I prepared to put up with it? If not, what needs to change to get a different result? Essentially, you need to create some non-negotiables. However, when you take it to your manager be sincere, be confident and open to suggestions – it’s all about finding an arrangement that benefits you both. Assure your manager that you are not doing less work for them, you are simply doing it somewhere outside of the office and the traditional work hours.
“Most dads don’t want to reduce their hours… they want to be able to control their hours so workplace flexibility really is a great tool.” Scott Behson
3) Sell yourself, gracefully
What are you doing that ensures people know you are doing a good job? Do you gracefully sell yourself in the workplace? Is your boss aware that you’re a good manager? Does your boss know what customers are saying about you? If you value yourself, and know that the quality of your work is genuinely good, others will value you and it will be much easier for them to adapt to any changes in your work schedule.
“I know some dads have been scared to ask for taking an extended paternity leave… but they did and it was no big deal… and it made their life easier.” Scott Behson
4) Block out your diary
Take an honest look at how you are using your time? Get the magnifying glass out and assess what some of the time wasters are that may be taking up valuable me-time or family time. Make a list of your priorities and schedule them in your diary… including taking your child to school. If you share this with your colleagues it’s a good way to make it known that family stuff is important.
5) Address the stigma – don’t sweat it.
“It’s not always safe to out yourself as an involved dad… dads are sometimes seen as less dedicated to the company and less manly. Violating both of those can really have career consequences,” Scott pointed out. Some people may have an issue with you working from home or leaving early but if your performance doesn’t drop then they tend to get over it pretty quickly… and you set a new standard for workplace culture along the way. If you are open and tell people you’re doing the drop off you set an expectation about what is achievable at work. Remember: You don’t have to do it like everyone else does it… it should be about what works best for you, your family and your employer – not what others think of you.
6) Check in with colleagues
Check before leaving for the day if your team needs anything. This goes a long way to ensuring they feel comfortable in your absence and more accepting of your choices as they feel your support – but make sure the check-in is genuine and not half-hearted.
7) Talk about it
As a society we [generally] don’t talk about the work – life challenges raising a family presents. One thing that prevents us from supporting each other as men is that we don’t talk about it. “It takes a small bit of bravery to stand up and say ‘I need some support’,” as Scott said. Utilise your fellow working dad tribe – at work, in social circles, at childcare or school, online etc. A good chat goes a long way to alleviating – even extinguishing – any stress or anxiety you may be experiencing.
8) Consider your wellbeing
It may seem as if there isn’t a lot of time left in a day to take care of you. If you follow some of the strategies above there will be. Remember that if you are not caring for yourself well then it is difficult to care for others. You also don’t perform as well at work – good health and wellbeing is the road to living your full potential in all areas of life. Also, ask yourself how you can advocate for yourself at home? This can be a big issue for working dads as often mums rule the roost in caring responsibilities and sometimes don’t give enough space for your needs. Is your partner’s request reasonable, are you in an equal partnership, are both your wellbeing needs being met? The more you communicate on these the more space you create for change.
9) Appreciate your contribution to the caring responsibilities
“Being an involved dad is the joy of my life,” as Scott said. If we really value the contribution we are making to our children’s life we must first appreciate what a privilege it is to raise them. We are raising the next generation of leaders after all – we need to ask ourselves what kind of workplace and home environment would we like our grandchildren to have? We have a lot of power here by virtue of the reflection we offer our kids – inspiring them to create work-life balance when they grow up.
Get the recording
If you would like a recording of this 1 hour webinar visit this link and you will be given instant access to the slide pack as well as the interview itself. To get a copy of Scott’s book click on this link: The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home. To read Scott’s blog visit: Fathers, Work and Family.
You’re invited to the NEXT Working Dad’s Connect
Join us on May 31st as we interview Dr Adam Faser about his book The Third Space and the strategies he suggests to support dads to make work-life balance and work flexibility a reality.
To book in to the next Working Dad’s Connect session tap here. This is a free community webinar. If you cannot make the nominated time slot you can still register as you will automatically be sent the recording the day after the live session.