The First key principle we teach -
Talk honestly about what you truly want as a family.
30 years ago, I don’t suppose anyone really talked about “Work Life Balance”
Life was simpler
When I was growing up in a market town in Somerset, dads went to work and provided, and mums looked after the house and made sure everyone was fed.
My dad pretty much worked for the same company for 30 years until he took early retirement on medical grounds.
Sure, my Mum worked a bit. I vividly remember that she had a cottage industry of ‘making boxes’ – even 9-year-old me could tell the piece rate was ridiculously low and she was also a child minder in time when you could just say you were a childminder.
Life felt a bit uncomfortable in the early 1990s but somehow my Dad was one of 3 out of 30 or so ‘at risk’ to survive a redundancy round.
One thing is certain it never felt like dad was always ‘at work’.
The signs of a changing world
We didn’t know any gangsters, so my dad was the first person I knew who had Carphone (back when The Carphone Warehouse seemed like the obvious name for a business).
He was surveyor, out on the road in Somerset – calling in his reports over the phone to be typed up in the office. But despite the technology there was never any danger of being ‘always on’.
In fact, my dad even had flexible working – he scheduled his own diary of house surveyor visits and frequently made his schedule fit the away sports matches my brother and I were involved in on Wednesday.
To state the obvious, life has changed…
The pressures are different - our parents didn’t have to cope with emails on their phones, data at their fingertips. Everything requiring their action.
If you’re a working dad, it’s important to make sure your work life balance is right for you and for your family.
Long standing traditional gender roles of Men = Provider, Women = Care giver serve many couples very well. They can provide certainty in life. Giving opportunities to experience deeply accepted elements of masculinity and femininity.
But know this - it doesn’t work for everyone.
Maybe your partner wants to build her career and would prefer not to be tied to endless parenting ‘duties’?
“I am not a parent yet, nor have plans to be in the next couple of years… I'm particularly keen for my hubby to be a 50/50 parent. I already get push back from him how that will be difficult!”
Maybe you are one of the many men who wants to spend more time as a parent - even if this means forgoing progress at work.
Before we go on, ask yourself this…
Do you know how your family feel about your ‘work life balance’?
A = Everyone is happy with my work life balance
B = I’m happy with my work life balance, but my family aren’t
C = My family is happy with my work life balance, but I’m not
D = No one is happy with my work life balance
(E = I’m not sure what they think)
A – This is the perfect situation everyone’s a winner.
🏆 It doesn’t matter how you do it - this is what you want.
It might be that you work long hours, doing a job that you love and that provides you and your family with the life you all want.
✅ Perfect! Keep doing what you are doing - make sure you don’t inadvertently slip into B though…
B – This could easily become an issue.
❌ Here’s a couple of warnings… to jolt your out of complacency.
Imagine it’s your work anniversary on LinkedIn… among the notes of colleague respect is a comment from your wife:
“Congrats, let’s catch up”
I hope you don’t need me to tell you you’ve got a problem here and it’s time to do something about it before you face what Toby' faced…
❌ Toby and his wife are separated and to a large extent due to a failure to sort out their work life balance.
“If there's one thing I wish we'd done better, it would have been to have those really honest discussions - rather than the more off-hand comments and observations - about the work life balance for both of us, including as a couple and as parents.
But hey - we live and learn, eh?!”
B is not a good place to be.
C - tricky one
Maybe your kids aren’t bothered if they see much of you as long as they get a new Xbox for Christmas?
Your partner likes the lifestyle you are able to provide.
If you want to reduce your hours, more flexible or change jobs - how will this impact on your family - what you might see as good thing, they may only see the downsides.
✅ Open and honest conversations are key here - you need to be honest about how your current situation is affecting you.
✅ You will need understanding and practical and emotional support.
D – what are you waiting for?
Time to do something different today!
E – DEFINITEly time to find out
Hopefully it’s A, but as you can see above B isn’t a great place.
Now armed with this knowledge, what do you need to do differently?
Come and tell us, share ideas with other guys like you:
✅ It’s about doing what is right for you and your family.
✅ Finding a path that works for you.
✅ Being honest and vulnerable about the pressures you are facing
Recently, on a LinkedIn thread, someone commented
“My wife played the main role in bringing up our wonderful children. Whose role was more important? Mine = money. Hers = next generation growing up happy and ready to be amazing”
My answer - they are both equally important.
But it’s important that men and women have honest conversations about how they want to organise their lives, what they want to achieve.
If you are feeling stressed and struggling to work out How to be a Great Dad AND have a Great Career, it’s time to do something about it.
Don’t wait until the stress and anxiety gets too much.