There is the expectation that as the father of the house, you go out into the world, and you earn the dough. You do whatever it takes to get ahead, build a career and become successful. You make sacrifices of time and energy, and you put money first because the more money you make, the better you are at taking care of your family. Right?
Today’s dads are beginning to disagree. They are questioning the expectation that they should have to sacrifice so much time away from their family. They are waking up to the fact that getting a big promotion doesn’t automatically mean your kids will think you rock. And, sometimes a sticky-fingered high-five from your three-year-old feels better than another five grand in the bank.
What the Reports Say
According to the 2014 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 50 percent of all married-couple families have both a working mom and dad. While it’s no news to any of us that more moms today work as compared to the 1960s, the 2015 U.S. economic report from the President reveals that more dads are participating in child care and household tasks. Almost three times more.
Dads are spending less time at their paid jobs and more time with family, reading to their kids, even changing diapers, but what’s especially noteworthy is how they feel about it.
Dads are Getting It
Working gives us the satisfaction of earning money and using our giftings and talents to make a difference in the world, but how do you balance work life with family life? We’ve all heard the stories about the dad that works too much and doesn’t have time for his kids. The dad who goes out to the bar after work, and the dad who doesn’t come home. But what about the dad who wants to be involved in his kids’ lives, who loves coming home, the dad who gets it?
The number of full-time employed fathers who report dissatisfaction with the work-family balance has nearly doubled since 1977.
There’s been a lot of buzz in the workplace about changing policy to accommodate these family issues, but why wait. You can do a lot to reclaim your dad benefits now by insisting on balance.
Take Matters into Your Own Hands
The people we expect always to be there for us are often the ones we most easily take for granted. Our spouses, kids, even our parents–we assume they will understand that we have to work late, that we forgot about the birthday party, and they do. But, the thing to remember is this: Relationship withdrawals add up too, just like bank account withdrawals. How many times can you tell your spouse, your son or daughter, “We’ll do it next time,” before they stop believing you? Unless you are curing cancer or catching crooks, it’s difficult to justify why Daddy has to work late and miss yet another event.
My advice to working fathers struggling to find time to invest in the family is the same as the advice I give when talking about finances and the struggles to save: Pay Yourself First.
Now that doesn’t mean go out and spend money on yourself. It means give yourself what you need first, off the top, and then go backward from there. Instead of giving your family and the people you care about most the time that you have left over after work, set aside their hours first. Then, figure the rest of your schedule from there.
Not everybody’s workplace is willing to accommodate day-time school events such as plays and concerts, and things will come up at that have to take priority, but that’s okay. Work with what you have. It’s more of a mindset thing. Instead of putting your job first and fitting family around it, you put your family first and fit work around them.
Is the Price Worth the Cost?
When you consider the cost of an investment, you look at more than just the price in terms of dollars and cents, you look at it in terms of what it will give back or cost you in the long run. Look at your relationship investments the same way. What does an investment of ten minutes throwing the football around with your son give back to you? What do those two hours working late really cost your family? You ask yourself, is the price I pay now worth the cost later? Weigh that against your other options such as coming in two hours earlier, or maybe calling in a favor.
Relationships are like savings accounts: they grow over time when nurtured regularly–even if the investments are small. In fact, savers who regularly deposit small amounts do better in the long run than those who wait until they are making more money to save. The same thing is true of your relationships. A daily ten-minute conversation over Cheerios or a walk around the block will do more in a year to deepen your relationships than an annual trip to somewhere fancy.
Kids grow up fast. You’ll never get back the time you miss out on. So use what time you have now.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Characteristics of Families 2014, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf
2015 Economic Report of the President, The Economics of Family-friendly Workplace Policies,
Photo: Flickr/ jodimarr