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Be intentional – don’t let work rob you of time with your kids

intentionalFor some dads, an effort is made to maintain a fine balance between work and family since they consider them intertwined and equally important.   Just as you can’t be with your children 20 hours per day and hold a job, or spend 20 hours per day at work and be an effective dad, occasional compromises between work and family are required to maintain a happy medium.

For these dads, keeping work and family equal is a matter of pragmatism.   On an emotional or ideal basis they believe that family is the higher priority.  They believe that fulfilling their role as a father includes being a good provider, in fine balance with family life. They are defensive of family time, being intentional in their efforts to not let work rob their kids and family of time with their dad.  One dad adjusts his shifts so he can spend more time with his kids.  He’ll swap shifts to be at home even for a brief period at dinner time when he can ask the kids about their day.

A fathers loveAnother dad, a teacher, goes into work early so when he comes home in the evening his family has his full attention. Some dads maximize precious family time by including their kids in everything they do or wherever they go outside of work.  Rather than stay in a job that intrudes into family time and is inflexible, many of these dads look for a new job that enables family time. These dads aren’t immune from the challenges of separating career and family priorities. In practice they are willing and intentional in their effort to compromise as best they can keep their career and family roles balanced.

Unless a dad is independently wealthy and doesn’t need to work, it is normal for him to be confronted with conflicting priorities of work and family. How the father addresses the balance of work and family has significant positive or negative ramifications for all stakeholders; himself, his family, and his employer.

For many separated dads, time becomes even more precious, the need to continue earning is a heightened because finances are stretched. Many dads that have a fortnightly or 50/50 access agreement take intentional action to ensure that nothing gets in the way of their time with their children. Work shifts, social engagements get pushed aside over having access with their children. For this group of dads, career and promotion opportunities are often missed and social friends disappear but from the value they get from fathering they would not have it any other way.

Father and Son.The father’s behavior will in large measure be based on his sense of control, the flexibility of his job and family, and his willingness to engage in healthy compromise and boundary setting. Work and family will be out of balance when boundaries are absent or not enforced. Poor boundaries created by an out of balance condition can be generated by the father, or in some cases inflexible demands of the family, the job or the employer.

Focus on the children can help fathers by raising their awareness of the factors necessary for a healthy work/family balance. Since families need to eat, there may be periods of time where it is the father’s duty to tolerate a work/family imbalance. On the other hand, many fathers may actually be promoting the condition by poor boundary setting or failing to research and pursue different job opportunities that may be available. With the many conflicting priorities inherent to work and family demands, the issues surrounding work/life imbalance can be a significant source of stress to fathers and their families.