Dads, kiss your 12-to-16 hour work days goodbye as soon as you have that baby
Lesson 1: Create a new routine
Routines are important for your baby and they will become necessary for you, too. Break up your day and create a routine and do it for at least 30 days so it sticks. This will make it a lot easier to plan when you can work and when you can enjoy family time. Your situation may change and you need to allow for flexibility but having a base schedule will be invaluable.
Create a routine that you can execute 80 percent of the time. Here is an example:
- 5 am: Wake up
- 5 – 5:30 am: Work out. Check out our A Fit Dad is a Great Dad Lesson
- 5:30 – 7 am: Shower, help with family morning routine, arrive at work
- 7 am – 4 pm: Work. Get your most important tasks done in the morning (coding, writing, design, etc.) Use the afternoons for meetings, socializing, and gathering information.
- 5 – 8 pm: Family time with kids. Once you get home from work, spend time with your kids – go outside, eat dinner with them, shower them, put them to bed. This gives your spouse a break and is bonding time with the kids.
- 8 – 10 pm: Spend alone time with your wife
This is a very basic schedule. Some days this will be perfect. Other days it will be right out the window but having it to go by will ensure you are at least sticking to it that 80 percent of the time and dividing your precious time properly.
Your baby needs a routine, so do you Dad!
Lesson 2: Learn the proper way of saying NO.
If you are asked at work to get things done quickly and it is unrealistic – do not say no. Instead, try using a dialogue with your boss like this:
“I can certainly do that. Assuming I only work on this, it will take me X hours / days to get this done with good quality. This is what I would need to do to get this done (list out what you would need to figure out, steps to take etc.). Since I have other things on my plate, it will take much longer to get it done unless this is prioritized over them. If this is prioritized first over my other duties, I will need your help to confirm I can reprioritize my other tasks.”
Use this technique of saying “No” to gauge the criticality of the request – is it so critical that you need to break your routine and pull an all-nighter? Most employers care about their employees and will not drive them to the ground. Be fair, don’t make excuses, articulate what you need to do to get the job done, how long it will take, and seek direction on what is more important to work on and negotiate the proper, realistic deadline. Your boss will appreciate this straight-forward and honest approach to your work. It shows you are serious and committed and are coming with solutions and not just problems.
Saying Yes and not delivering is worse than saying No upfront.
Lesson 3: Discuss division of responsibilities with your spouse
Every family is different and there is no one-way to divide up the enormous amount of labor that goes into parenting. What will get you in trouble is assuming that the other person is going to take care of something. Whether it is laundry or dishes, and you will have plenty of both, it is dangerous to assume the stay-at-home parent is solely responsible for them. A study by Boston College’s Center for Work and Family surveyed about 1,000 dads like us and found that families who had egalitarian and traditional households were pretty happy. The dads who said caregiving should be equally shared but weren’t sure how to go about it were far less happy than the egalitarian and traditional dads. What this means is that families with agreed-upon division of household and family labor were clear in their roles. The ambiguity of the unknown was uncomfortable and created conflict within those other families.
Your family may have financial constraints that do not allow you to take on more at home. As long as you talk to your spouse and can honestly discuss what makes the most sense for your family, everyone will be a lot happier and tension and resentment will not find its way in. Your spouse probably already has similar values as you, so you just need to have the conversation about who can do what and when.
Roles & responsibilities – you figure it out at work, do it at home too…it will keep you sane.
Lesson 4: Evaluate your career situation
In line with your new communication technique for your boss, you need to start looking at ways to align your work life to fit your family life. It was easier for Bachelor You to just go along with whatever the company wanted but you have small people who depend on you now.
Talk to other dads at the company and see what kind of informal ways there may be to accommodate your schedule. Since you have already established yourself as a hard worker and team player, you can use that to leverage some “handshake” type agreements with your boss, for example to come in later one morning in order to take your kid to tumbling classes.
You can also check about work policies such as virtual work and alternate work weeks. Even if you aren’t able to help your spouse as much during the day if you work from home, you are available for lunch and are cutting out that commute time that you can spend with your family instead. Maybe you can negotiate an extended work day so that it gives you every other Friday off. Consulting with your boss and Human Resource representative will help you understand what options you might have. You should take advantage of any that fit your family’s needs.
Get creative, you can make time for your family.
Lesson 5: Make small goals to gain more time for family
Like any good project, you need to have actionable goals if you want something to happen. Saying “I wish we had more family time” is fine, but it is not going to happen if you don’t do something about it. This can be as simple as saying “We are going to have breakfast together as a family twice a week” to start. Once you have that running smoothly you can add other things, such as weekend trips or movie nights.
Another way to get more quality time if you do not have enough actual time is to limit screen time for everyone during certain times. Getting sucked into the television or your phone can suddenly make a half hour disappear and chances are you regret that missed time with your kids. If everyone has to put their phones down and turn the television off, you have more time to play games, go for a walk, or read stories together.
And like any good project manager, you also know that you need to schedule specific time to make these happen and then guard them fiercely. Once time is just an idea, you know how easy it is to escape and get taken up by something that you probably don’t value as much as family time.
Work-life balance is not impossible but it is going to take some work. If you can align your priorities with your actions you will see exactly how you can be a rock star employee and the best dad possible, too.
Start small and commit to it. Even if it is just 5 minutes of completely undivided attention with your wife or kids.
A message from your future work-life balanced Self
I know the feeling, I’ve been there, done that. And you know what, that’s ok. But now, you’re about to have kids or you have kids, and you need to make time for them and for your wife. Your family will be your biggest accomplishment – more than your work. Your family will be your rock, your foundation, and your happiness during difficult times at work…as long as you take care and spend time with them.
So get on it boss, make time for your family, it is required, not optional.
Until next time!