How to Nail Being a Modern Working Dad
12 Tips to Balance Work and Family
They began their family by adhering to more traditional roles: Graham Treece worked at his office every day while his wife stayed at home to care for their two boys. When his wife decided she wanted to go back to work full-time, Graham knew this meant a redistribution in parental and career responsibilities between him and his wife. While she tackled the challenges faced by all mothers returning to the workforce, Graham faced his own challenges in navigating what this meant for his own role as a parent. For both, this ultimately meant finding the career-parenting balance that worked for their family.
To begin, Graham transitioned into a consultant role that allowed for more flexibility of working hours. Next, Graham and his wife explored all the resources they could find available to working families. The Treece family discovered that having it all is possible, but it takes commitment, involvement, and preparation. We spoke with Graham and some other working dads to share their strategies for having it all.
Find Child Care That Works for You
If you are a 9-to-5er, you can probably rely on a local daycare or after-school service to provide your kids with the care and attention they need while you are at work. Do your research to ensure your children are in a safe and comfortable space. This will give you the necessary peace of mind to allow you to focus on your work day.
If you are looking for something less traditional, consider finding a shared space where your children can be looked after while you work nearby.
After doing some legwork, Graham and his wife landed on Bloom, a child-care facility that doubles as a co-working space.
Shared spaces like Bloom are a new model of child care. They allow you to cut down on your commute, saving precious family time at the beginning and end of every day. Shared spaces allow parents to check in on their kids while simultaneously allowing for some separation.
“Bloom has provided a great infrastructure for me to work effectively,” Graham says. He adds that the proximity allows him and his wife to “scratch our own itch” to check in during the day.
Always Put Your Child First
Graham notes it is essential to make sure your child is comfortable in any situation they are in before you move on to your own responsibilities. Once you know they are in a safe place, learning, and growing, you will be able to focus better at work without that nagging worry that you aren’t doing the right thing.
“They are the priority,” Graham insists. “Putting them first puts your mind at ease by making sure they are comfortable.”
Once that goal is realized, you can put physical barriers in place — a door to your office, a co-working space at your child-care center — to ensure that your focus is on work when you are at work. That focus should be 100 percent on your child once you step on the other side of that barrier and back into the world of being a dad.
“Obviously there are times that require some multitasking, but 95 to 98 percent of the time, I make sure that those two worlds are separate,” Graham says.
Graham says you can avoid potential conflicts by staying organized with a consolidated family calendar. Using an application such as Google calendar, you can combine work schedules for both parents, along with your children’s activities. This is especially crucial when your kids are school-age and start joining sports, band, scouts, and a million other programs offered to them through school, their community, or their church.
Many sports teams also use calendar-type applications, according to Justin Halliday, a father of two boys who are active in sports.
The applications “map out the the whole season’s games and practice schedules,” Justin says.
Sports Illustrated Play, for example, uses an application that will remind you when practices are coming up and include any important updates from the team. Take advantage of the extra reminders by signing up for these services.
Put Work Away for a Little While
Eric Storm, a father of a toddler, says as soon as you are done with work for the day, shove your phone in a drawer and power down your laptop.
“When your kid wants to talk or spend a few more minutes doing something,” Eric says, “everything else can wait.”
If you need to get your social media fix or check in on work emails, wait until you get your kids to sleep. Establish a regular bedtime routine, leaving yourself a little “me time” to unwind after the kids are tucked away in bed.
Develop a Support System
A recent snowstorm sent the Northeast into gridlock of traffic, delaying many parents from picking up their children from school and daycare. A group of parents whose children attend daycare with Eric’s son got stuck in an hours-long traffic delay. Eric and his wife had made it home ahead of the storm, so they picked up all their friends’ children before the daycare closed. They watched and fed seven kids while the children’s parents slowly made their way to pick them up into the late evening hours.
It takes a village, and it helps if that village doesn’t consist of your in-laws 30 minutes away and your dad down in Florida. Take advantage of events hosted by your school or child-care facility to get to know the parents of your children’s peers. Not only will you find a few new friends, but you will develop a strong support system for your family — one that you can rely on to care for your little ones when you are stuck in the snow an hour away.
Beat Your Kids Out of Bed
Up through the toddler years, children typically act as human alarm clocks that go off way earlier than you want them to. By getting out of bed before them and starting your day on your schedule, you will set yourself up to be more focused throughout the day, starting with breezing through your children’s morning routine.
Jordan Galbraith, a father of two school-aged children, uses the alone time in the morning to prepare breakfast and pack lunches for his kids.
“I always get up before them,” Jordan says.
Use Meal Delivery Services
You could always order takeout every day (no judgments here), but most meal delivery kits provide a much healthier alternative. Let someone else do the meal prep for you, leaving you more time to spend with your family. And if you are not the greatest cook in the world, your kids might think you are as long as you can follow a recipe. You can also use the ingredients to create a dinnertime ritual that includes teaching your kids how to cook.
We recommend meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh to get you started. (Learn more about some of the more popular services to see which might best fit your needs.)
Don’t Be Hungover
You won’t be spending as many nights out as you once did, so when the opportunity arises, you may be inclined to get a little crazy. While date night or drinks with the guys are good for your mental health, try not to overdo it. Not only do hangovers take a much longer time to recover from when you’re older, but it will be business as usual for your kids in the morning. They aren’t going to let you sleep it off or care if your head is pounding from one too many whiskeys.
Alternatively, if you know you are going to be overindulging, try to find some coverage from someone who is willing to take your kids overnight and get up with them in the morning. You’ll be thankful for the extra recovery time when it comes time to resume your role as dad. Even if you don’t drink, the extra sleep is sure to help.
Work With Your Job to Provide Some Flexibility
Don’t miss the big moments — your child’s first recital or their first soccer goal, for example. Worse than missing out on these memories, your absence will be noted by your child. Sure, there are work commitments that can’t be avoided and bosses who can be sticklers, but try to work with your company to manage a schedule that allows you to be there at the major events in your child’s life. You will be the first one they look for when that ball hits the back of the net.
Justin has the benefit of working for his family business, and he uses that flexibility to put himself on the sidelines as often as possible.
“Coaching my boys is so rewarding,” he says. “I will always make the time for that.”
Know What to Expect …
Every kid is different. They are going to throw some curveballs at you, but most of their natural growth is predictive and has been documented in books, blogs, and websites like those at WhatToExpect.com. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the future, and you will know how to react to new milestones, from teething to tantrums to puberty.
… But Also Trust Your Instincts
Books, blogs and advice from other parents can go a long way, but nobody knows your children like you do.
“As helpful as (books) can be to the masses,” Graham says, “it’s always important to trust your instincts on what your kids need and the amount of attention you need to apply.”
Don’t Sit on the Sidelines
If your kid wants to work on a puzzle, work on it with them. If your kid wants to be the pitcher on the softball team, get out there every day and practice. If your kid wants to be the best speller this side of the Mississippi, throw on “Wheel of Fortune” every night. Having it all takes a lot of work, but the only way to be successful is to get your hands dirty.