What do bosses and children have in common? Both resent last-minute complications or changes caused by poor planning.
Women typically talk more about the balance between work and life, while men are starting to speak up about feeling torn between job and parenting responsibilities. A national poll commissioned last year by Workplace Options, an employee benefits provider, brought to light the difficult balance between family and career for working dads. More than two-thirds of employed fathers say they’ve experienced negativity or problems with their employer due to conflicts between their job and their duty as a caregiver. A majority said they frequently take time off work to deal with child and family-related issues. And about four in 10 said the demands of their job detract from their ability to interact with and support children and family.
“Men’s role in the family is changing. Men increasingly contribute on the home front, but expectations of them in the workplace haven’t changed,” says psychology professor Michael Addis, author of “Invisible Men: Men’s Inner Lives and the Consequences of Silence” (Times Books, 2011).
To be sure, “Men and women are both held to a very high standard in the workplace,” Addis adds, “but if a man leaves to pick up a sick child, he’s more likely to get a sideways glance.”
It’s no wonder that men fear their role as a parent will cost them big time if those duties ever interfere with their role as a professional.
Perhaps men need to think past their next promotion. “Men need to start taking their emotional wellbeing seriously,” Addis warns. “Overall life satisfaction, happiness, mood, relationships – these are all important things that need to be attended to like your physical health and your career.”
For the same reason it makes sense to diversify financial investments, it’s wise to invest in relationships and opportunities outside of work. “Each of us needs to experience competence, satisfaction and connectedness in a number of domains. If your sense of self-worth is all tied up in your job, you’re at risk if problems arise on the job front,” says Addis, adding that a fulfilling home life can offset trouble at work.
Let’s come back to what bosses and kids have in common. If you are forced to miss a school play because you forgot about it until the last minute, your little thespian may not understand. On the other hand, if you skip out on an important meeting to watch third graders reenact fairy tales, your boss and coworkers may not understand. So, planning and advance notice are critical.
Kids’ sore throats and stomach aches strike without warning, of course, but most of the school year is planned. Access the school calendar online and mark down teacher in-service days, classroom parties and early release days in your own calendar. Sporting events, recitals and all other activities known in advance should also be recorded.
Decide which events are important, to you as well as your child, and arrange for time off work.
Well in advance of school holidays, arrange for childcare or ask to work from home, suggests Dean Debnam, Workplace Options CEO and a father of five.
Work cycles are somewhat predictable, so compare your busy times with your spouse’s and plan accordingly.
“Couples need to communicate because if you go out with clients to dinner, that becomes an infringement on your wife’s time, too, if you’re not home after work to help out,” says Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
Schedule regular check-ins with your spouse to plan and adjust your schedules. “Be clear about who’s going to handle what,” Addis says.
Make sure each of you covers for the other, so that each has some alone time. Just as important, schedule some “together time” apart from the kids, Addis says.
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