How to balance work and life as a dad
In most households, the dad is the primary breadwinner. Yes, there are some great stay-at-home dads, but in general, most dads have to get out there and earn a living. And in a lot of cases, both parents in the house have to work just to get by.
When dads do work they are the provider. They may be the sole provider. You may own your own business, or you may work for a large mega-corporation. Regardless of what you do you have to pay the bills and provide for your family.
In previous generations working hard and getting promoted was a badge of honor for men. In some circles, it still is something to be proud of. But also in previous generations, the dads were less involved in the family. The balance between work and life was skewed so far to work that sometimes kids wondered if their dad really existed.
Even today it is hard to make it without putting in long hours or perhaps working two jobs or owning a business and working a full-time job. And here we are again tilting the balance between work and life on the wrong side.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Dads can achieve a work/life balance. They can spend time with their kids and still have a career. They can take their wife on a date and still have that job they dreamed of. And they can have hobbies and not feel like they will lose their job for enjoying themselves for a little time.
Here are some tips on how to balance work and life as a dad:
Stick to a schedule
When we agree to start a job the first thing you should know is what is the work schedule. Do you work 8 to 5 with an hour lunch? Do you work 7 to 3 with a 30-minute lunch? Is your schedule Monday through Friday or do you have rotating days off?
Every workplace can have different schedules, but some are starting to offer flexible schedules. If you work a more typical workday of 8 to 5 or 9 to 5 make sure you stick to that schedule. Don’t work past your scheduled time unless it is absolutely necessary. Your job will drop you quickly even if you work hard. But your family is always there.
One of my biggest tips is to schedule a consistent lunch every day. Block off your work calendar so that others cannot schedule meetings at that time. Then use this time wisely. If your kids are at home then eat lunch with them. If you need time to take care of errands do it at lunch so you are not missing out on family time.
Take time off
If you get vacation time use it. If you get personal time use it. I always feel guilty taking time off. I am part of a team at work so if I take time off that means others have to pick up the slack or things will back up while I am away.
But that is ok. That is why we work in teams. We have to trust our team will take care of that job while you are gone. You have to trust they will answer that email for you.
If you have personal time take it and have a day where you do what you want to do. Not what your wife wants you to do. Not what your kids want you to do, but what do you want to do. Now if that day involves doing something with the family then great, go for it. But make sure you take a “me” day once in a while.
Work from home when possible
I know working from home isn’t something everyone can do. If you work in a physical job at a location you can’t just take that equipment home with you. But if the past year has taught us anything it is that a lot of our jobs can be done from home. And can possibly be done better from home.
If you were allowed to work from home and have been asked to come back into the office then ask your boss if you can work from home on a trial basis again. Or maybe start with just working from home a few days a week.
But how does working from home balance the work/life equation? It gives you more time in your day. Instead of hanging around the office and eating in the break room, you can possibly have lunch with your kids if they are home. Instead of spending an hour in the morning stuck in traffic for a commute, you can take your kids to school and have good talks with them.
Just make sure if you do work from home you have a good spot to separate work from life. That way you don’t get tempted to work when you should be spending time with your family.
Ask for comp time
Comp time or flex time. Some workplaces call it different things. The idea is that because you worked 4 hours of overtime between Monday and Tuesday you should get those 4 hours off somewhere else.
Really start the discussion with your workplace if they don’t offer this. Especially if you are a salaried employee. If they don’t pay you for overtime then you should get some comp time to take off early on a different day.
And make sure you use that comp time. If you get off early then pick up the kids from school and take them to the park or go fishing. Just use that comp time wisely.
Outsource when possible
Do you find that after you work all day that instead of spending time with your family you have to get chores done? Or do you spend all weekend mowing the grass, weed-eating, and trimming bushes? Then perhaps you can outsource those tasks.
If your kids are old enough have them help out. When I was about 9 I started to help mow grass and even younger than that I was raking leaves. There are plenty of age-appropriate chores that work well for kids.
If your kids are young and you can afford it then hire someone to mow your grass during the summer. If you calculate the cost of paying someone to mow your grass vs the cost of the gas, mower cost, mower maintenance, and time spent mowing, you may see that it isn’t much more to just pay someone to mow your lawn.
Don’t forget your spouse
Make sure and carve out time for your spouse. A lot of times we put our spouse after work, kids, and maybe even ourselves. But if you do that your marriage might not last long.
Try to schedule a date night once a week. And it doesn’t have to be a hard-fast rule of once a week. Maybe you had a lot of other activities that week where everyone was together so maybe you skip a week or two.
Have a few babysitters on call when you want to do a date night. Grandparents are great resources if they live close by. But don’t forget aunts and uncles who might also like hanging out with your kids and wouldn’t mind doing it for free. Worst case scenario is you hire a babysitter, just make sure you get some references from previous clients or family and friends.
Be present when with your family
Being present with your family is one of the key things you need to be a better father. If you are with your kids but you are constantly checking email or responding to texts from work, are you working or are you living?
Don’t be at home but not aware of what is happening in your house. Put your phone up if necessary or turn on your out-of-office messages. But leave work behind and give your family your full focus.
For more on how to be present with your family read this article.
Put your family events on your work schedule
If you own a phone or if you work in the office you should have access to a scheduling app. I use one for everything work-related and I get reminders on my phone.
But did you know you can schedule family events on that same scheduling app? It doesn’t cost you anything else and it’s a great way to not forget things.
For instance, if you have trouble remembering a birthday at it to your scheduling app to get a reminder. Forget your anniversary (you should never do this) then add it to the scheduling app.
This is also a great way to block your calendar for personal events. If your son has a school program next Tuesday at 2 pm. You add that to your schedule and pad the time for traveling. This not only reminds you but also lets anyone who tries and schedules a meeting with you know that you are busy.
If allowed take your kids to work
A few years ago my middle son had the opportunity to job shadow someone for the day. It was a program the school did so kids could learn about careers. And wouldn’t you know it, he selected me to job shadow.
At the time I was working at the office. I asked my boss and confirmed that it was ok for him to come into the office.
They thought it was a great idea!
He came by and he saw what I did at work. Then I introduced him to some other people that did a little different job and he sat with them for an hour.
By him spending just one day with me he not only understand a little more about what I do but why I work hard to provide for our family. So when the time comes and I need to work overtime, he understands why.
Work hard at work
I would hope that if you are here reading this article that you already work hard at work. But there are some people who go to work and don’t enjoy their work and find it hard to be motivated. Then at the end of the day, they scramble because they didn’t get anything done and end up having to work late or bring work home.
Be the best employee you can be at work. Work hard and outperform everyone around you. If you have a stellar work ethic other coworkers will notice this. And if you need to leave early one day to go to your son’s singing performance at school, no one will care. Because they will know that you will get your job done.
If you are working hard at work it will make it easier to request time off. Being the hardest worker also leads to promotions which means you can get into jobs that might have more benefits or more time off.
Nothing drives you to work harder than having crippling debt. When I was younger we struggled with debt. I felt like I needed to work multiple jobs just so we didn’t feel like we were behind all the time. I learned quickly that taking on that debt was putting a massive strain on my family life.
If you can, avoid debt from the beginning of starting your family. Try to budget everything and pay with cash often. Be content with what you have and don’t go out and buy things just so you can keep up with your neighbors.
Take time for yourself
Outside of work and family, you do have a life. Yes, your family is everything, but you need some “me” time once in a while. Make sure and schedule those days for yourself.
Where I find my balance is to carve out time for myself when everyone else in the house is either gone or asleep. Here are some things you should take care of yourself
Take time for yourself and stay healthy. You can either get up early and work out before everyone wakes up. Or you can work out on your lunch break. Make your lunch ahead of time and then as soon as you get done eating go workout.
Get outside and get some fresh air. If you like fishing you can get up early and go fishing before everyone wakes up. When we go on vacation I do this often, I will get up before dawn and get to the lake or river and fish for an hour or two before anyone else wakes up in my family.
Play a game
Enjoy gaming? I love to game and I love gaming with my kids. But sometimes I just want to play a game by myself. I usually wait until everyone goes to bed at night and I will play a good game for an hour or two. I put no pressure on this, I just play for fun so I will normally avoid online multiplayer games.
A drastic move to balance work and life is to change careers. Maybe you have worked an evening shift your whole life and moving to a day shift would be a cut in pay. But by working days you can help out more with your son’s scout troop. Consider learning a new skill and making a career change so you can work from home or have daytime hours.
Right now is a great time to change careers. The worker shortage everywhere has companies looking for any help. And they may pay for any training or let you work with little to no knowledge. Make a family decision when considering these options. Sit down with everyone and talk about the change you want to make and create an action plan.
Balancing work and life isn’t just about balancing the time you spend at work and the time you spend with your family. It’s about having a great quality of life that includes not only your family but your personal life. It means spending time on you and spending time with your kids and spending time with your spouse.
Remember that even though you may love your job and everything is great with your work, something could happen to that job tomorrow. You could walk in and everything you worked hard for is gone and then the only thing you have in your family. I pray that this never happens to you but it is a reality. A single law or mistake can end an industry overnight. Make sure that the ones that will always be there and always have your back are your number one priority.
Do you have any additional tips on how to balance your work and life as a dad? If so leave a comment or let us know on our Facebook page.