My Teenage Son Let Me Win a Basketball Game the Other Day…

I’m going to end up like an old lion playing out his final years at the edge of the pack. This Oedipal nightmare needs to be shut down immediately, but how?

My son is bigger than me. This is troubling.

At 15 he’s three inches taller and way more athletic than I ever was. He’s the only freshman on varsity soccer (I played JV hockey as a senior, which I think is illegal).

I knew this was going to happen. Delivered via C-section because of his head size and always one of the tallest in his class, I heard the footsteps even when they were a child’s size 12: He’s coming for me.

Before this recent growth spurt we enjoyed a blissful 18 months where we shared clothes and shoes like college roommates. Emerging from my closet sporting one of my vintage shirts he’d wordlessly relay to me that, in my sons eyes, I am at least semi-cool. I, in turn, showed up to The Laugh Factory in his slip-on Vans and soft flannel shirts.

I didn’t care that he came home wearing my dress shoes covered in mud from kicking a soccer ball after school. I can wash that off. But the feeling of communing with my son in this give-and-take will stay with me.

It occurred to me the other day that I have never hit him. It also occurred to me that that ship has sailed. If I hit him now he might punch me back. And if he kicks my ass I’ve got to move. I can’t live in a house with an asshole like that.

I’ll end up like the old lion that’s beaten down and plays out his final years on the edge of the pack waiting for the jackals to circle him and tear his flesh apart. This Oedipal nightmare needs to be shut down immediately, but how?

old lion

He’s upsetting the paradigm of paternal dominance going back to my own childhood. Unlike me, my father was not a pacifist. He was 6’2” with a bad temper and being much smaller than him was overwhelming.

Towering over my son in his younger years put me on confident and familiar footing. But it was a complicated footing because I didn’t want our relationship to be based on the dynamic I’d had with my own father.

When I grew older and shed my fear of my dad, I also lost some of my respect for him.

In my insecure moments I comfort myself with the knowledge that no matter how big my son gets, I will be able to take him down. I’ve been in a lot of fights and even though I haven’t always won, I’ve never lost. I am a nasty Irish prick and will break a bottle if necessary. (I may have written that last part in case my son ever reads this and gets any ideas.)

We play one-on-one basketball and over time the game has progressed from my indulging him in an occasional win to me having to give it everything I’ve got – and then some. I trash talk, box out, and occasionally pull down his shorts when he goes for a layup.

I went to hug him last week and mistakenly went high over the top not realizing that I’m now the guy who goes low. I stretched my arms around his torso while he hugged me around the neck like I was his prom date. It felt awkward at first as I adjusted to the new arrangement.

He doesn’t act any different than he did in simpler times when I was bigger than him. It was a long hug during which I realized that I’ve overcome this Oedipal hurdle and my ancient fear of being small. Thanks to my bigger-than-life son, that is just not the way we relate to each other.

We played one-on-one the other day. It was tied at 13-all when I got an open lane twice in a row and won the game. We looked at each other and silently acknowledged the obvious; the kid let Dad win this one.

Instead of the sense of powerlessness I had always feared, I felt respected. I felt loved. Then I mocked him for losing, and went inside for a smoothie.

10 Things Every Awesome Dad Does

Awesome dads make the world a better place and we need more of them.

When my wife takes our two kids to the grocery store, people look at her and think: “There’s a mom doing her job.”

When I take our kids to the grocery store, people hand me gifts and erupt in songs of praise around me: “What kind of angelic man is this who takes care of his own children??” 

It’s not fair to moms, plain and simple. But what I’m talking about here is not this backwards way of thinking – that a dad who does anything is basically a hero. No, I’m talking about the dad who goes out of his way to put his family first, who does everything he can to make his wife feel loved and supported, and who sees himself as an equal parent when it comes to raising and loving his kids. 

Awesome dads make the world a better place and we need more of them. If your husband, dad, or friend is really nailing being a dad, tell him so. Us dads not only need help figuring out specifically what we’re doing that works, we also need to hear that we’re doing it well.

Here are 10 things every awesome dad does:

1 | He tells his wife and daughters that they’re beautiful.

I don’t fully understand it, but there is something special, almost holy, about a husband telling his wife, and a dad telling his daughter, that she is beautiful. Awesome dads understand this and are intentional about constantly sending this message. 

2 | He sets up time for his wife to be “off duty.” 

The first half of Saturday is my wife’s time. She’s had to deal with a three-year-old and an 18-month-old for five days straight while I got to do things like go to the bathroom by myself and sit in a chair for a while. Awesome dads understand how tiring kids can be and intentionally set up “off duty” times for mom.

3 | He doesn’t “help with” chores – he does them.

My 18-month-old daughter ate a PB&J sandwich yesterday and by that, I mean she ground it into about 6,000 pieces and smashed the crumbs into her hair, clothes, and on the floor all around her. My wife didn’t ask me to clean it up. I saw the mess and simply cleaned it up. Awesome dads understand they are members of the household and, as such, are equally responsible for keeping things clean(ish).

4 | He is emotionally in-tune with himself.

A dad who can express love, talk deeply, genuinely apologize, empathize, and know when and why he’s feeling a certain way is a huge, huge advantage to his family. Emotionally in-tune dads are awesome dads, period.

5 | He disciplines his kids without being told to.

The other day, my son stole a toy car right out of the hands of my daughter and I was standing right there to watch it. What did I do? I did absolutely nothing. My wife had to come over and enforce a consequence. You see, this is one of those times where I screwed up. Every other time this happens (well, a lot of the time), I’m right in the thick of it enforcing consequences. Awesome dads understand that if they don’t discipline now, their kids will turn into hellions later.

6 | He romances his wife.

Date nights, pointed compliments, affectionate touches… An awesome dad understands that one of the best things he can do for his kids is to make his wife the priority.

7 | He plays hard with his kids. 

I have a good friend who repaired an old busted kite he found at the beach using rubber bands and an crab leg or something. I helped him “launch” it and as he ran down the beach with the kite bouncing off the sand, it struck me that this dude was dadding right. Yes, the kite was a total bust, but he nailed his true goal which was to make his whole family (and mine) laugh. Awesome dads understand how meaningful playtime with dad is and, because of this, put forward the extra energy required to make it happen. 

8 | He provides stability when life is uncertain.

Sometimes things get hard: money, health issues, etc. Awesome dads understand the value in having a “we’re going to get through this” mentality for their family.

9 | He wakes up at night to help with the baby. 

Awesome dads share the burden of having to wake up in the middle of the night. 

10 | He prioritizes family over work.

Work is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for dads. We traditionally have seen ourselves as the provider and, sometimes, we use this role to justify spending too much time at the office. Awesome dads can be hard workers, excel at what they do, and even work a lot of hours for periods of time; however, they are intentional about putting their families first both in mindset and in time prioritization.  

7 Cards You Can Text Your Dude This Father’s Day

Dear old dad deserves a card. Don’t rush off to the store to buy one. He’s sick of taking the trash out as it is. Here’s 7 hilarious ones to text instead.

The kids probably have some great macaroni art coming down the pipeline for Father’s Day – but have you figured out how you’re going to say “thank you” to the other half of your parenting pair?

Luckily, we’ve stolen the words right out of your mouth, and checked this “to-do” right off of your list! Peruse the FREE cards below and choose one (or many) to send to the guy who’s helping you to put one foot in front of the other. Feel free to share these anywhere that you would like.

Happy Father’s Day, dads!

psst… save a card to your computer or phone by clicking (or tapping) on the card you would like. Then save the images

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How Involved Dads Boost Their Baby’s Brain Development

We all know that a baby needs a loving mother to maximize the chances of growing up to be a happy and successful adult. But how important is a dad?

We all know that a baby needs a loving mother to maximize its chances to grow up as a happy and successful child. But how important is a dad?

When my son was born I quickly had the impression that he didn’t need me at all. He was constantly seeking contact with my wife, and barely noticing me. I was already telling myself that I would get more involved once he could speak and walk, and that in the meantime I could focus on doing well in my career. At least I was contributing as the main provider for the family.

However, it wasn’t long before my wife was ready to chop off my head for not lifting a finger to help her with our son. I quickly realized that my days as a passive dad were numbered, and that I had a choice between accepting some father duties, or becoming a headless horseman. You can guess which option I picked.

But I do have to admit that despite good intentions, becoming more involved was a bit scary, initially. After all, our son looked so small and vulnerable. I had no idea what to do with Rafael and thought I would never be able manage him the way his mother does.

So I started helping with some basic chores – after receiving exact instructions from my wife – like feeding him and changing his diapers. To my surprise, Rafael and I quickly developed our own special bond, and were soon spending more and more quality time together. Ever since, our moments together have become a daily highlight.

This is when I started realizing what an important role I could have in his upbringing.  In fact, more and more studies are confirming the benefits of involved dads. For example, one study found that babies with absent fathers suffer from poorer peer relationships and school results later on in life. Another study suggests that babies with involved dads enjoy better language skills.

Involved dads = successful children

So why are dads so important for the development of our little ones?

Well, first of all, a baby needs full time attention. A mother can probably handle all the baby’s basic needs, often at the expense of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. By having two parents involved, we can instantly improve both the quality and quantity of care and guidance a child receives.

Secondly, the first two to three years of a baby’s life are so crucial for brain development (and hence for a positive childhood) that any productive stimulation is extremely valuable. A baby’s intelligence and character are not genetically hardwired. Experiences and influences from significant people shape the architecture of a child’s brain. This leads to the simple equation: the more positive stimulation a child enjoys, the more opportunities she or he will have to develop.

Let me share two facts that really got me thinking about how crucial it is for a baby to have both parents involved:

1 | A baby’s brain develops at a tremendous speed.

A child is born with almost the same number of neurons as adults, but stored in a brain that is about 75% smaller, and with almost no neural connections. During its first six months, this brain will double in size, and by the age of three it will have reached around 80% of the size of an adult brain.

During this time, the simple structure of a baby’s brain quickly transforms itself into a true network of neural connections, forming more synapses than it ever will again during adult years – up to 700 connections a second. In other words, this is the time a baby uses every experience to learn and evolve its cognitive functions.

For example, the first year is crucial for learning languages as a baby will be extremely sensitive to various sounds. At the same time, this window of accelerated learning is not available for too long, as this surplus of neural connections will eventually be eliminated in what is often referred to as ‘’blooming and pruning.”

Around one year, the connections for a child’s native language will have been reinforced at the expense of other sounds.  This is why I speak German to our son, my wife speaks Russian, and together we speak English. While this may sound a bit bizarre, it also means we are stimulating his brain, and hopefully facilitating his ability to be fluent in several languages.

 

dad holding baby

 

 

2 | Dads have a unique way of interacting with their children.

Studies have shown that although mothers usually spend more time with their little ones, fathers have a greater influence with regards to a baby’s later success or failure at school or with friends. This is probably because the relationship between fathers and children evokes such powerful emotions.

For instance, fathers often engage in more physical, exciting types of games than mothers, allowing a baby to experience a whole range of feelings. By doing so, dads not only encourage an infant to take the occasional risk, but also help him or her to regulate emotions, one of the key characteristics of happy and successful people. This is especially so if a dad uses a positive and encouraging tone while communicating with his child.

A baby also watches for cues from its father to distinguish behaviors related to play time from those that signal that it’s time to wind down and relax. Over time, your child learns the invaluable skill of self-soothing, something that even many adults don’t master properly. By learning to manage their own inner world, it becomes much easier for children to relate to other people, which is why they become so much more social.

The bottom line is that involved dads make a huge difference for the development of babies, and help them prosper with social relationships and academics later on in life. 

At this stage you may be concerned that by investing more time into your family, you will be losing valuable time working on your career. I can tell you that initially I was wondering how I would manage scheduling quality time with my son, while remaining efficient at work.

I quickly realized, though, that planning some family time gave me an opportunity to structure my day with more discipline, become more productive, and use the joyful moments together to boost my energy and motivation at work. In fact, my son was becoming the best possible high performance coach, but an angel-like and pooping one, which made his support even more awesome.

Remember that the earlier you become involved with your baby, the better. Sharing core duties like diapering, feeding, bathing, or otherwise caring for your baby from an early age creates a bond from the start, and will increase the likelihood of spending regular quality time together later on.

The best news is that you don’t need to be amazing in your fathering skills: According to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, even ‘’good enough dads’’ appear to make a real difference in their children’s lives.

 

I’m Not Sure My Kids Really Get It – I Used to Be Cool

I’m not sure my kids really get it – I used to be cool.

There was a time before I owned a Prius, rubbed sunblock on the top of my head, and slept with only one woman. How could they know? They see my wife and me as wholesome and have a vested interest in believing this is how it’s always been.

I have a duty to present this reality despite the gnawing dishonesty of it. My buddy Danny once told his kid, right in front of me, that he had only gotten high twice in his life. Danny got high twice A DAY in the ’80s but now has to disown all of that for a singular purpose: robbing his children of the excuse to say, “But daddy, YOU did it!”

I also partook frequently in the ’80s. I lived to test boundaries, often going past them to press up close to reality and stare it down. I was insufferably bored and felt an anxious loneliness when not out with my friends breaking rules and getting intoxicated.

I regarded kids who got good grades and respected authority with curiosity. It’s not that I didn’t like them, I just didn’t understand them. Didn’t they know they were wasting their time? How did they restrain from their primal impulses? How were they able to stand the boredom? Could they seriously be wearing boating shoes? The irony is that these are the children I am now trying to raise.

You know when I stopped being cool?  When you two assholes were born!”

And yet they treat me like I’m not now, nor ever have been, cool. Sometimes after dinner my kids like to play a game called, “Let’s all shit on Dad.” They get a charge out of calling me a nerd.  “Dad, you don’t get it!” “Dad, you’re so out of it!” “Dad you don’t know how to download an app.”

One night I snapped. “You don’t know me motherfucker! You don’t know who I was! You have no idea how I used to be!”

Eyes go wide as the family paradigm shifts faster than the GOP with Trump leading the race. “I used to be very cool. Way cooler than you will ever be. You know when I stopped being cool?  When you two assholes were born!”

My wife opens her mouth but then freezes and says nothing.

“Here’s a news flash for you. You will never be as cool as I was. You know why?”

They know it is a question that is directed towards them but ultimately has no answer because Dad is in 5th gear and they are not even strapped in yet.

“Because you’re not being raised by an abusive alcoholic parent. And that can change.”

Having never seen me drink or hit them they now recalibrate what their future might look like.  “When I was a kid I got into fistfights every day after school. You wear a helmet to ride a bicycle! When I was young only the really good athletes got trophies. Now they’re handing them out to the white kids too!”

My son casts his eyes down as he thinks about the wide trophy case in his room housing dozens of statues, many earned before the age of nine.

I know I’ve gone too far but I feel relief that the lie I’ve held in for so long is being rectified and I believe that my kids might actually feel closer to me knowing there is (or at least was) a different side.

I want to tell them more but reason starts to apply the brakes. I want to tell them all the crazy things I’ve done, but I can’t. I have to protect some image of my old self. I want to tell them that, in fact, I had a three-way in college – with two guys (this girl was supposed to show up but she was running late so we figured we’d just get started by ourselves. She never showed up. Good guys though. Can really keep a secret.)

The worst part is that my children think my wife is really cool. That part kills me. I decide to set the record straight.

“You think mommy is cool? Do you? Well, guess who’s banging her? This guy right here. She doesn’t look so cool when she’s on all fours hyperventilating.”

My daughter gently cracks her knuckles as my son pokes at the un-forkable bits of his now soggy salad. My wife’s face has the intensity of a bull rider waiting for the chute to open. I lean back and take in the moment. It is a turning point we will all grow from. There will be no more teasing.

I shift in my seat as I feel a vaguely familiar release from my nether regions. I smile as I realize it’s my old friends – my balls.

Dads Get Postpartum Depression Too

New dads can also suffer from depression and anxiety. Like man-flu, but for after the baby comes.

It started with anxiety. About everything: Managing work, changing dirty diapers, even mundane stuff like cleaning the cat’s litter box. My heart raced. Relentlessly. Anxiety turned to self-doubt.

Experts call it paternal postnatal depression (PPND), or paternal perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PPMADs) because we aren’t the ones actually giving birth.

There aren’t official symptoms of paternal perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but, in general, experts say the conditions can take many forms. You could be experiencing a PPMAD if you are feeling anxious, empty, irritable and angry, or out of control following the birth of a child.

The bottom line is that having a child affects us guys in some of the very same ways it affects our partners. There’s no shame, and a great likelihood of big gains, in reaching out and seeking support from professionals to come through this troublesome time intact.

Source: PSYCHOLOGY TODAY

Why “Work Life Balance” Is Too Simplistic for Modern Dads

There’s been a lot of change for dads in a short period of time. Today they work as many hours as previous generations, but do three times the childcare and twice the housework as dads a generation ago. In this interview, Scott Behson, PhD, author of “The Working Dad’s Survival Guide” talks about how working dads can create a more balanced life of family, work, and self, and how employers can help make it happen.

Scott Behson, PhD, is a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the author of “The Working Dad’s Survival Guide.” Behson also founded and runs the blog Fathers, Work, and Family. Parent Co. spoke to Professor Behson about how working dads can establish a more balanced life, and how employers can help make it happen.

Parent Co: As an expert on the topic, can you give me a sense of the currently held general expectation for working dads in our country?

Scott Behson: There has been a lot of change for dads in a relatively short period of time. Dads today work as many hours as previous generations, but do three times the childcare and twice the housework as dads a generation ago.

Dads are still expected to be primary providers in most families, but have really expanded what they do in terms of everything else that’s needed to be done to run a household. This is largely due to the fact that so many families are now dual-earner couples, which means both the mom and dad work outside the home, and spend more evenly than ever before sharing the rest of the work that goes into running a household.

Things aren’t exactly even yet, but things are getting closer and closer. It’s a challenging time for dads because if you think about it, most of our role models did it differently and faced different expectations. To a large degree, this is why I wrote “The Working Dad’s Survival Guide” in order to help dads face these changing circumstances, and provide advice and encouragement, so they can do a good job in both of their incredibly important roles.

When you say that the amount of household work done by dads has increased dramatically over the generation before, would you say that it’s increased from nearly zero to what it is now, or is that not a fair statement?

I don’t think that’s exactly a fair statement. I think dads, for most of history, have cared about providing for their families and being there for their families. I would say it’s true that dads today are changing more diapers and doing more grocery shopping, but I wouldn’t say dads of previous generations didn’t do very, very important things and play important roles in the family besides earn money for them.

I don’t want to slag on my dad’s generation of dads. To use my dad as an example, my father, wonderful father, I hope I’m half the dad he is, but there are a lot of things I do in my daily life that were never expected of him.

I did half the bottles and half the diapers, and I go grocery shopping, and I cook, and I clean the house, and I do half the pick-ups. That’s just normal, and in fact, virtually every dad I know, my peer group, is in the same situation. It’s interesting that society doesn’t seem to acknowledge this very much. Society talks about deadbeat dads, or bumbling dad humor, or they over correct and are calling people “super dads” or we focus on stay-at-home dads. The fact is, there are millions of dads out there, and virtually every dad I know cares a lot about his career, and earning for the family, and being a really good hands-on, involved father.

What do you think it is that caused this relatively large change in such a short time?

It’s a bit of an echo of what working women faced in the past generation or so. If you think about what working moms have faced, they greatly expanded themselves into the workspace, but in many cases, were still very much expected to uphold what they were doing at home. That led to the second shifts and all these really difficult stressors on working women.

I think this is now men facing the fun house mirror version of what working women have faced, where men are greatly expanding what they do in the home and for their families, but in many cases are still expected by employers and by society to maintain everything they’re doing at work as well.

Of course, yeah.

Workplaces are not forgiving for any employee who puts family above working more than full-time hours, but there’s a lot of research that shows that it’s even more of a challenge for men to visibly be seen as accommodating their work lives for their family responsibilities.

As someone who teaches in the school of management, having your head in that world as well as a mind and eye towards a work-life balance, what do you see as the main sources of resistance to supporting this change in the workplace?

To some degree, I’m seeing things from both sides. I’m a business school professor, I work with companies, I work with dads on this specific issue, but I’m also a busy working dad myself trying to juggle it all, and I interviewed dozens of dads for the book. What I’m trying to contribute is being able to see both sides, I feel like I can give some really good, real-life advice that dads can use tomorrow to help them in their work-family juggles, but also be very realistic in terms of what’s possible in the workplace and what people need to be aware of.

Again, things have changed very rapidly, and I think a lot of companies, it’s finally on the radar that work and family issues aren’t just working mom issues. Many companies have become aware of this. They are worried that they are not able to recruit and hold onto really good employees, both men and women, because of some of the workplace demands and the inability to have a life outside of work, so it’s on their radars.

I don’t think too many companies have quite figured out what to do with it yet, but this was not on the radar of most companies ten years ago, so this is significant progress in a relatively short period of time.

I’ve been booked at several major corporations to lead workshops and seminars based on some of the content of the book, which shows that companies are really eager for information on this topic because they are trying to figure out what to do with it, if that makes sense.

Some companies have been very progressive on this. In fact, there’s only about fourteen percent of private employers offering things like paternity leave, but that number is going to increase pretty rapidly, I think. More importantly than set policy is starting to understand that technology, and the way work is, means that so many more people can get a lot of their work done outside of the workplace and outside of normal business hours.

I think when companies feel a little better about giving employees freedom about how and where and when they get their work done, that  will help both working men and women immeasurably. Companies are not good at evaluating performance, so a boss who doesn’t really know what his people are doing, he tends to evaluate performance based on how long somebody stays at work, or chair time, or face time, which is silly because it’s easily gamed, right?

Oh, yeah.

The productive employees work hard and go home, and the opportunists work slow and stay late until we combat that. There’s been some companies who’ve done incredible work in this area creating flexible workplaces that still are very productive and, in fact, are more profitable than ever now that they have given up some of that control over where and when.

When you’re booked by these employers, do you go to them with these examples as a way to show them how it’s being done right and the positive effects of that?

Yes, absolutely. Getting specifically to the book, there’s a chapter where I advise the reader to think through their ongoing career planning in light of the rest of their lives. One of the things I really wanted to accomplish in this book is that there are a lot of great parenting books out there, but none of them talk about work at all, which is really funny to me.

There are a lot of great career and business self-help books out there, but they hardly ever talk about the rest of your life outside of work. One of the things I really wanted to do in “The Working Dad’s Survival Guide” is to talk about these two important roles together, because they influence each other so much.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying in one chapter of the book I advise people to think about their careers in light of the rest of their lives, because so many of us chose our careers either in college when we’re in our twenties, before we are married with kids, and what might have been a great early career track that suited our lives might not suit our lives ten, fifteen years later.

So many people stay on the track instead of reconsidering what they’re doing. In this chapter I highlight a handful of employers, not to be comprehensive but to be representative of different types of companies, and I give examples of these companies that have done really, really good work in terms of being forward on supporting employees and their work-life challenges. This includes big professional multinational firms, it includes companies that mostly have hourly employees. I try to be very representative.

I think that’s such a good point that you just brought up and I’ve actually never thought about it like that, because I guess from my own perspective, I’ve always known I wanted to write. And that’s such a broad notion, so when I started having a family, I made it work, or I’m still trying to make it work. I’ve never thought about stepping back and reevaluating a career choice to try to find something that’s perhaps a bit more family-friendly.

Luckily there are many different ways to have a good career in writing. There might not be that many ways to have a great career as a law partner or as a corporate executive. People who are on those types of tracks who are traveling out to clients four or five days a week, and are only home and weekends, and they’re road warriors and stuff, those are jobs that are very difficult to make it work.

If that’s what you want, and you’ve arranged your family life, and your spouse is on board with it, and your kids are getting what they need, that’s fine. It’s just, I’d rather people make conscious choices about what they’re doing. In fact, the first section (of the book) is all about thinking through your priorities. What you want out of life. What do you want out of your career? What do you want out of your family life, and what do you want out of your one shot at your kids’ childhoods?

I think it’s easy to feel so busy, because if you care about your career, you’re probably working more than full-time hours. Then, what’s left of your time, you’re probably trying to spend as much of it with your family as possible. I get it. But sometimes we have to almost get off the hamster wheel instead of running on the hamster wheel at full speed all the time, and then sit down in the cedar chips and to spend a little bit of time thinking about the big picture. I think if we figure out what you want in the big picture, then it might not be easy, it might not be quick, but I think we could start making decisions that are more aligned with what we want out of life. Then, in six months, two years, maybe we can find our way to a situation that’s far better for our set of priorities.

In talking to a lot of different dads, did anyone tell you that it’s really hard to be honest with yourself about what you want given the various societal pressures and cultural norms and everything? How do you advise people in that respect?

I recall a situation where I was talking to one of the dads I interviewed in the book and I asked him about this. I said, “What are things that are working well for you in terms of work life balance? What are things that aren’t? What’s getting in the way?” He’s quoted in the book. All the quotes are real, they’re anonomized, and there is no identifying information because some people talked about things they struggled with. One was like, “Man, I always promised myself once we had our kid that I would start getting off the road, and now my son is ten and I haven’t done it, and I don’t see how I can.” He feels the pressure to provide, but he also loves his job, and also I think he feels like since he’s been … It’s set up like a vicious cycle where he hasn’t been around, so then it’s harder for him to feel in sync when he is around. I felt like he can’t find a way to get himself there.

Again, I was interviewing him, I wasn’t trying to give too much advice, but I was like, “Listen, when this book comes out, go through these first couple of chapters and think through this. Maybe it won’t be easy to get off the road or change the career, but maybe in two years, or eight months, or however long it takes, maybe you can get closer to where you want to be.” Luckily life is long, and parenthood is long, careers are long, and we forget this sometimes. We’re going to be working for forty-five years. It’s okay to let an opportunity go by, or it’s okay to temporarily put something on hold.

I think a lot of people don’t like the word balance when it comes to work and family, and I think that’s because they have the wrong idea of balance. When you think of work-life balance, most people think about a tight rope or a balance beam or something where if you are not perfectly balanced, it’s a fall.

Everything falls apart, yeah.

Right, but I think we should look at it more like a balanced diet. I talk about this in the book where it’s okay to be temporarily out of balance. If you are an accountant, March and April are going to be crazy with work. If you have a sick family member, it’s going to be two weeks of all dealing with family and work goes by the wayside. That’s okay, as long as we have a long-term balance.

It takes a lot of different food groups to have a good diet, it takes work, and family, and time for yourself, and time as a couple, and time for exercise, and your own social needs, and religion, and whatever else is important in your life. It’s not just work and family, it should be almost like a balanced life in a broader sense, because we’re no good for other people if we’re burned out.

I think it’s what you’re saying about living a conscious life.

Yeah, I don’t know if I use those words in the book, but that’s beautifully said. Especially that first part, thinking about the priorities. Then, section two of the book is about the workplace, how do we navigate it, what are the things to watch out for, what are our options, how might we be able to work more flexibly or negotiate for things that we need and advocate for ourselves. Then at home, how do we make sure we have enough time for family and that we use this time really well. Then I have a section about taking care of yourself in what I was talking about there.

What do you see as the role of the partner in all of this?

Again, when we are talking about the priorities part of the book, step one is to think through your priorities. Step two is to talk about it with your spouse or the other important people in your life, because you might be a very career-oriented person and that’s great. If your spouse is on board with that and understands that you’re going to be away and then she, let me just use that pronoun for now, is going to pick it up at home, and everybody gets what they need in the family, and everybody is happy with their roles, then great.

You can have a very traditional arrangement, or you can have a very free-flowing, egalitarian relationship, that’s great, as long as it’s whatever everybody needs. One of the things I’ve observed is that a lot of times, if families don’t talk about it, it defaults to very gendered roles in the family where the dad is actually working more than he would want to, in part because the mom is working less than she would like to or perhaps leaves the workforce entirely, and neither of them are really happy with that arrangement. It’s frustrating to be home and be a full-time parent if that’s not really what suits you.

Sure, and nobody’s winning when that’s the case.

Exactly.

The kids certainly aren’t.

Yeah, but I see people suffer through that thinking it’s the only way instead of, again, examining and figuring out, “Well, I might be stuck in this role for the next nine months, but what can I do so that a year from now we can have a different arrangement?”

…Sometimes we internalize this; that we have to soldier on instead of taking a step back and seeking help, or talking about things that we need. It’s better if we recognize this is an issue. Again, one of the reasons I wrote this specifically for working dads – as a fellow working dad – is that guys are not particularly good at asking for directions. Especially when it comes to work and family, I think a lot of guys might not be comfortable talking about this or complaining about their situation, because they see that their wives are struggling with this too, and what right do we have to complain about it?

Even though ninety percent of the book would apply to working moms as well, the way the book is written was very intentional so that it’s much more accessible for guys. That’s another thing I’m trying to add to the conversation is that dads, we need to advocate for ourselves because so much depends on us. Families with involved fathers, the research is unbelievably clear that kids thrive, that their spouses thrive, that dads are happier and live longer if they’re more involved with their kids. It has so many positive ripple effects if dads are supported in the two most important roles in their lives, their role in the family and their role in their career.


Follow @scottbehson on Twitter and visit his website Fathersworkandfamily.com. Order his best-selling book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide.

For Dads, Another Surprising Benefit of Family Time

A new study published this month in the Academy of Management Perspectives finds significant benefits accrue to men, their families, and their work organizations, when fathers increase the amount of time they spend with their children.

“The more time fathers spend with their children on a typical day, the more satisfied they are with their jobs and the less likely they want to leave their organizations.”

Dads who spent on average 2.65 hours each day with their children exhibited significantly less work-family conflict. This focus “enhances work results and allows people to feel less stressed and overwhelmed.”

There’s much more to read in Nanette Fondas important article on HuffPo Parents.