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How to Find Good Excuses for Work-Home Balance for Dads

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Good Excuses

You might have seen it on the old TV shows or experienced it firsthand – dads go to work, while moms look after the house and take care of the kids.

Do those gender-stereotypical roles still hold any credibility in today’s age? Hell no!

Since women have entered the workforce in droves, men have had to step up their games, contribute towards household chores and help with the kids.

Before I became a dad, I was clear about the role I would soon have to uptake. I would bring home the bacon during the day and take care of the baby in the evenings.

What I wasn’t prepared for were the long hours at work that kept me away from my little girl and the sleepless nights with a squalling baby that compromised my concentration at work.       

Managing a sustainable balance between work and home did not come naturally, of course. I needed to decide what took precedence from day to day.

Some days I had no choice but to work longer hours to meet the deadline, while on other days, I generally had a good excuse to call off work – most often a sick kid!

So how can one find a work-home balance after becoming a dad? Ask yourself:

Do you make time for little things?

Something I learned very recently is that being home on time is not enough.

I needed to be mentally present to watch my kid make her umpteenth Lego house and appreciate her efforts. I needed to pay attention to her chatter while we walked around the neighborhood. I needed to make sure that she knows I am there for her when she fell from the swing.

There is a myriad of little things that counts towards being a good dad. Throwing a lavish birthday party or a trip to Disneyland are good excuses to miss work. However, these momentary joys do not contribute to the big picture.

Thus, even if I spent an extra hour at work if I was there for the little things, I felt quite competent as a dad for the day.        

Have you set everyday goals?

According to research by the Boston College’s Centre for Work and Family, there are three kinds of working dads. In a recent study, BCCWF asked approximately a thousand working fathers with white-collar jobs two questions:

  • How should the childcare in my family be divided?
  • How is the childcare in my family divided?

The responses were broadly categorized into three categories:

  • Egalitarian Dads who said that caregiving should be shared equally and are doing so
  • Traditional Dads who said caregiving is primarily their spouses’ responsibility, and she does more
  • Conflicted Dads who said that caregiving should be shared equally but have not figured out  a way to make it work

Further digging revealed that the happiest group was the Egalitarian Dads. Despite carrying the greatest workload, they enjoyed the best of both worlds; job satisfaction and less stress due to the work-family conflict.

That sounds about right!

The reason for their happiness was because they were leading a life consistent with their values and priorities. They clearly defined their goals and boundaries and went on to following through diligently.

However, there are no fixed goals for all dads. What works for me is prioritizing family dinners on the weekdays without any distractions. We talk about our day, clean up together afterward, and unwind from the tiring day.

We also started a family ritual of having a weekend movie night. We all look forward to it, and it is something we all enjoy as a family. We keep away our gadgets and immerse ourselves in the experience.

One of my friends swears by a therapeutic nighttime routine. He bathes his boys and reads them a story before bed. He gets to hear about their day and then returns, often guilt-free, to his emails.   

Spending time with your little ones and feeling their unconditional love for you are the best excuses to miss work.

Do you bring work home?

Let’s face it. The answer is probably yes for most of us. All of us are one phone call, FaceTime, or email away from being sucked into the professional wormhole.

It is a physical effort to stay away from the phone. I am so addicted to it that it feels like a limb is missing if I don’t have my phone nearby.

Is that healthy? I know it is not!

However, I have made it clear to my colleagues that when I am home, I prefer not to receive any work-related correspondence until it is a life-and-death situation, which it is most often not. 

I do realize and appreciate that it is a privilege to be able to do that.

Therefore, I applaud France’s employment law that barred all work emails after office hours.    

The outcome of leaving the work at the office has been refreshing. I no longer suffer from the pounding headaches the next day due to staring at my laptop well into the night.

Nobody even considers headaches as the best sickness excuse to slack off at work, and you still had to function through them.    Thus, when you outline a clear boundary between work and home, you thrive in both dimensions.

Does your work have flexible hours?

Flexible working hours have allowed so many fathers to manage their work and home life successfully.

Some people moved their working hours to start a little later to handle breakfast and drop off kids at school, while the spouse took up the responsibility to cook dinner.

Others work from home a few days a week (even pre Covid19) to avoid the long commutes. Technology has empowered us to have a malleable working schedule but left us with even fewer good excuses to miss work. Moreover, flexible employees are no longer regarded as less committed. More and more organizations realize the benefits of having a happier workforce and allowing more room for flexibility.

Simply put…

You need to prioritize work on certain occasions while you need to be present for your kids and partners on the other. As long as you are happy with your choices, it will reflect in your professional career and home life.   

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