1. Start at the Beginning
The first step to finding a balanced life is to really think through your priorities. What do want out of life? Your career? Your one shot at your kids’ childhoods? The next is to talk this through with your spouse. There may be tradeoffs involved in terms of time and money, so you have to make sure your family gets what they need and that they are on board.
2. Use Money to Buy Freedom, Not Things
We all know that “time is money,” but money can also mean time. With good financial planning and cutting back on un-necessary expenses, you can free up more time for family (take that vacation) or more time to dive into your career (take that night class). If you are sweating the house or car payments, you may be trapped into a job you hate. A lifestyle with less stuff could make all the difference. That $4 Starbucks coffee you buy every day on the way to work? That’s $1000 a year.
3. Know How to Navigate Your Workplace
Lots of companies have family-friendly policies like flextime and telecommuting on the books, but unless your workplace culture and supervisors support these, using them could be career suicide. You have to find out the lay of the land, and what gets rewarded and punished at work. Then, make your choices in terms of work and family. Of course, if you perform well, and you make sure (non-obnoxiously) that your bosses know it, you’ll have much more leeway to work flexibly.
4. Negotiate with your Boss (Like a Boss)
There are some jerk bosses out there, but, in my experience, most bosses want to do the right things but are too risk averse to try something new. Their biggest concern with having employees work more flexibly is that they fear they won’t be able to monitor their employees’ performance. So, before you ask, make it easier for them by presenting a plan with a trial period, goals, time sheets, weekly progress reports, and regular follow-up meetings. This way, you take away their most likely reason to say no. If you look at things from their point of view, you are much more likely to get what you want.
5. Fly Under the Radar
In a lot of workplaces, it’s not safe to out yourself as an involved father. If you work at one of these “all in” workplaces, you can still create flexibility for yourself and protect family time by working through holes in the system, finding ways to “unplug” after hours, or by finding ways to work more efficiently. That way, at least when you are home, you can feel done with work — opening up more time for life.
6. Make Sure You’re Still on the Right Career Track
Most of us chose our careers when we were young, single and unattached. What may have been a great early career track may not be so great when you have a wife and kids who also need your time and attention. Every 6 months or so, we need to ask ourselves whether our careers still fit with our lives. Maybe it’s time for a change.
7. Take Your Leave
Your career will last 45 years; three weeks really won’t derail anything. Tons of research shows that the kids of dads who are involved right from the start thrive — it is worth taking a paternity leave to set up a great family dynamic.
Right now, only 14% of employers offer paid paternity leave, and, in many of them, workplace culture means it’s not a wise career move. But if our generation doesn’t stand up for paternity leave, things won’t change for the better.
8. Defend Family Time with Police Tape and Razor Wire
If we don’t make family time a priority it is deceptively easy for it to slip away. Whether it’s family dinners, a family game night, or a Saturday morning dad-and-kid bike ride, we need to schedule the time and commit to it. For example, one dad I know has “no screen hours” from 6-8pm every night— no one, including him, can use a phone, TV or computer, forcing the whole family to unplug and be together.
9. Make Those Memories
The whole point of family time is to enjoy time with those we love. Parenting can be hard work, but that can’t be all it is. Time with your kids should be a lot of fun - don’t waste it! Go camping, make art, play a sport, dance like an idiot, go to the zoo, take a vacation. Your kids won’t remember how you taught them to brush their teeth, but they will remember the times you did something awesome together.
10. Put on Your Oxygen Mask First
If you are an involved dad who also cares about his career, you are crazy-busy. But you’re no good to anyone when you’re burned out and exhausted. You need to schedule time for your own mental health: get regular exercise, hire a sitter and go on a date, spend an hour of solitude, go to church. Whatever it takes so that you are relaxed and recharged. You know what they say about “all work and no play…”
11. Find Your Tribe
Most dads have a hard time making new friends and seeing our old ones. We just get too busy with work and family — there never seems to be enough time for a night out with the guys. But this is really important.
We have to get out, have fun, swap stories, share advice, and give each other the chance to vent. In my neighborhood, a bunch of dads get together for what we call “beer fire.” Other dads I know have bowling leagues or poker nights. One dad gets a big group together to see the opening nights of every new sci-fi movie. We’ve got to have friends, and we need to find our tribe.
In many ways, despite the challenges, it is more possible than ever to have a successful career and be a great dad. These tips should help.
This content is adapted from the Amazon #1 new release, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home.
- Norma McCorvey, the woman behind the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, has died in Texas at 69.
- Mark Sanford held a town hall on Saturday that he organized with Indivisible, a group dedicated to holding members of Congress' feet to the fire.
- Donald Glover has been cast as Simba in Disney's remake of "The Lion King."