Back in your grandpa’s time, a man was just expected to bring home the bacon and was excused from being too hands on in the child rearing department. Today’s man is expected not only to be a provider, but also a highly involved parent. These two demands can burn out even the strongest of men. Here are a few suggestions on how to be a corporate warrior and a super dad at the same time.
Have family dinner. Studies have shown children from families that have meals together do better in school and are less likely to get involved with drugs. Make it home each evening to have dinner with your family. If this means getting to work extra early in the morning, so be it. If you can get home early enough, cook dinner with your kids. At mealtime, ask about what’s going on in your kid’s life. Pose questions designed to stimulate genuine discussion. Dana Perino’s father would expect her to come to the table prepared to discuss and debate one current event each night. First she had to argue from her personal bias, and then she had to argue from the other side’s perspective. This tactic apparently paid off; Perino and her dad still enjoy a close relationship, and she currently serves as the White House press secretary.
Leave work at work. Obviously, this is not always going to be possible; sometimes you’ll need to continue your work at home. But during dinnertime, bath time, storytime, and any other time in which you are focusing on your kids, turn off the cell phone and Blackberry.
Take each kid out once a month for dad time. Each month, set aside a “date night” for each kid. Take them out individually and do something they enjoy. It’s a great way to get one-on-one time with each kid and ensure that jealously between siblings remains in check.
Limit work on weekends and holidays. Devote your time off from work to your family. Sure, you’ll have to spend time doing chores and running errands to get ready for the next week, but try to get your children involved with those tasks. Six hands pulling weeds are better than two.
Use your vacation. Many American workers are taking less and less of their vacation time. Don’t be one of these men. Use your two weeks and take your family on the Great American Road Trip or on a camping adventure in a National Park. Don’t bring along your laptop or Blackberry. Family vacations will be some of your kids’ best childhood memories. Don’t deny them these experiences by being a work-a-holic.
Take your kid to work with you for the day. You’ll get to spend some quality bonding time together. Your kid will see what Dad does all day, and will better understand why he can’t be home all the time.
Make it to all your kids’ activities. Even if this means bringing some work with you to do during the timeouts and halftime of their football game, at least you are there. I knew an attorney who worked for a high-powered law firm and yet he made it to each and every one of his four kids’ activities. He was there with legal pad in hand, but he was there. It will mean a lot to your kid to see their dad in the stands rooting them on.
Schedule a weekly Family Night. Make this a non-negotiable date, and schedule all other activities around it. Play board games, watch a video, or go out and get some ice cream.
Tuck your kids in bed and read them a book. Bedtime routines aren’t just for tykes. Even when your kid gets older, make it a tradition to read to them. You can move on from “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to “Treasure Island” as they grow up.
Don’t forget the Mrs. While the focus of this article is about balancing work with your kids, make sure to focus time on your wife, too. One piece of advice that I hear over and and over again from people is if you want to be a good father, then be an awesome husband. Call a babysitter, and take your wife out on a date. Make time every day to talk to each other. Right before bed when the kids are asleep is a good time. And don’t let work or being a dad get in the way of your sex life with your wife.
Okay, those are just a few suggestions. What are some other ways men can balance work and family? I know you all have some ideas. Drop a line in the comment box.