Bringing up children is never easy, but it’s particularly difficult if you’re a working parent. Both mothers and fathers have it tough for most of the working week. They both have a juggling act to perform.
Fathers expectations are changing too. Many new dads want a different dynamic when it comes to work and home, and how they meet up work hand in hand. Sometimes it’s not enough just to ’juggle’. Dads are looking for a more rewarding synergy of work and home.
Involvement in childcare has changed massively in recent years. Dads in particular are experiencing plenty of conflict when it comes to managing home and work. In our pioneering research report (The Millenial Dad At Work Report), we found that 87% of Millennial dads are involved in the day-to-day parenting of children.
We surveyed just over 2000 working dads across the UK and found:
Our study very much builds on the great work that Working Families found in their Modern Families Index report. One particularly revealing section was entitled ‘The Fatherhood Penalty’. The study found that fathers were more likely to ask for a pay cut so that they could work fewer hours. The age range where this was most striking was 16-35 yrs. The older men were, the less open they were to a pay cut.
All signs point to the same conclusion: the modern father is experiencing a pull towards childcare. And at the same time, the modern dad is particularly awesome at managing fatherhood while holding down a job.
With the increasing demands of work and the pull of family life, dads can struggle:
“It’s stressful being responsible for picking up your kids after work, from childcare or school. You are often leaving work with lots of unfinished business on your mind, people trying to talk to you when they can see you are heading out. Often you are facing traffic delays at rush hour, and perhaps you need to collect some shopping on the way. Then when you get to the school, they might need to tell you about an incident. There is no time to unwind.”
A week in the life of a working father – Brian Ballantyne, Daddilife.com
If you take a look at a schedule like that, you can see why it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But there is a way through. Like we said earlier, organisation is important, as is hard work.
It’s true that having children is challenging as regards to time to yourself. This is even harder when you have very young children. However, it’s possible to bring a little more planning to the table, and gain time through good organisation. As work-life balance takes on a different meaning for modern day dads, lets look at the different areas in which thy can manage a better work-life balance.
Essentially, it’s all about planning ahead. At night, for example, you could organise your next day. And if this means simply making sure you can get to work after an incredibly hectic school run, then so be it. It could also mean ensuring you can spare ten minutes while at work to call the primary school your daughter has just started at to explain why she hasn’t got the correct PE kit yet.
Planning your day before it happens, and making sure that you are prepared, can really cut down on your stress levels. Children have non-negotiable priorities. It’s often the case that you find yourself fitting your work life around them. This is no bad thing, and good organisation is the way forward.
We live in interesting times. Right now, you’ve probably got a phone near you. And it’s probably begging for your attention. Even if you’re reading this on a phone you’re probably being distracted by notifications. We live in a country where a recent report showed that people spend, on average, one day per week online.
There is no need for huge time-sinks online. The real killer is email when it comes to work. Unless you are running a country or a huge company, there is absolutely no need to read emails while at home. If something really important and urgent is happening, people will call you on the phone. Think about it. With emails, for example, no one ever sends one when there is an emergency.
So turn the phone off. This is a big part of being a responsible father, one who is able to enjoy a home life and to fulfill duties as a parent.
Exercise is the one area where you can truly help maintain a healthy work and life balance. If you’re able to fit regular exercise (2-3 times a week) into your life you should find that you can be a great father and a valuable employee. Exercise reduces stress, first and foremost. That’s a winner right there. But it also allows you to stay healthy.
Of course, as a busy dad, you’re pushed for time. So fitting exercise into your life brings us back to the power of organisation.
Make a plan that builds in exercise to key points in the week and stick to it as much as you can. Be ready for hurdles. Life happens, and you will have to miss a session now and then. But a plan will keep you motivated and, at the very least, show that it is entirely possible to exercise even as a busy father.
While you are at home, there are many options to exercise. Once the kids are asleep you could download an app that gives you a quick exercise routine that will ensure you get the endorphins you need. Even at work you could go for a brisk walk during your lunch break.
The opportunities for exercise are there. And the more you do it, the more you’ll benefit.
Of course, some employers will not be able to offer any work from home arrangements, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.
If your employer has capacity for it, working from home for some time during the week will help you to stay on top of your parenting duties as a father. Extra time because of not having to commute means that you can spend more time organising the week, dealing with day-to-day issues at home, and generally being the kind of father who is able to truly support the children. Remember that time is an issue, as is stress, You will see an increase in time at home and a reduction in stress if you can fit in at least some work from home time.
More and more people are working from home. While it has it’s own issues, that can be problematic, even a small amount of home time means you will be able to gain as a father.
There is also the option of more flexible working such as compressed hours. We know that not every employer is able to offer completely flexible working schemes, but many are working hard to make it easier for employees to simply spend more time with their families. For dads, this can be liberating.
At it’s very best, an enlightened flexi-work scheme can even allow dads to be home during the long school summer holidays, such as this scheme we discovered by Deloitte, as mentioned on Daddilife:
“The solution to this all-too-familiar parenting dilemma was to enjoy what Deloitte calls a Time Out. The scheme lets employees take a four-week period of unpaid leave once a year, for any reason, at a time that suits them and the business. Time Out was introduced in 2014 as part of its agile working approach, and over 850 employees have taken it so far. For Greg, it meant being at home with his family for a large chunk of a long summer holiday.”
Deloitte is rare, in that it allows for that kind of flexibility. But more and more companies are easing up on traditional working requirements. We think the best dads in the world right now are tuned in to what employers can allow, and super-focused on taking care of themselves and the new priorities of fatherhood.
What goes into your new work-life balance?
Parental Choice are working with businesses to help their employees become more productive by supporting their emotional needs. Our wellbeing programmes include a couple of fantastic talks focused on men’s health and supporting men as parenting issues occur.
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