Starla Ivey, PhD, Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Missouri
As a father, active involvement in your family contributes greatly to its strength and stability, as well as to your children’s achievement and behavior. But juggling the demands of maintaining a busy job and spending quality time with family can be a challenge.
Recent research has looked at the expanded roles of fathers in the home and shows a new kind of father emerging — a more involved one whose responsibilities reach farther than his career. Research suggests fathers are spending more time with their children than they have in the past and that the increased involvement is more interactive (playtime and homework) than custodial (cleaning and feeding).
Many fathers say they rank spending time with their kids above money, personal status or power. Other dads say they would take a pay cut if it meant having more time to spend with their children. But some fathers worry that prioritizing family over work could have a negative effect on their careers or hurt their chances for advancement.
Employers are beginning to address fathers’ needs. Flexible work schedules and compressed work weeks allow fathers to meet work demands while maintaining quality family time. Some companies even offer paternity leave, which gives fathers time to bond with newborn children.
If paternity leave is unavailable or your children are older, there are still things you can do to stay connected with your family. Remember, it is quality of time rather than quantity of time that makes a difference.
- Limit work on weekends, vacations and holidays.
Avoid answering your phone or checking your email while at home to have more time with your children. Tell co-workers you will not be available during that time, but you will get back to them as soon as you return to work.
- If you travel often, keep your children informed and involved.
When you have to go away, leave notes, recorded messages or videos of yourself reading a favorite bedtime story for your child. Talk to your children over the phone while you’re away and you may even have the option for video chats over the phone or computer. Discuss the trip with your children when you return, showing pictures and telling stories to help them feel included.
- Consider asking for a more flexible working arrangement.
It never hurts to ask. Try working longer days in order to have one day off per week, working through lunch in order to leave earlier or doing computer work from home. If you create a more flexible schedule, be careful to not let work spill over into all of your family time. Be sure to take time for yourself each day, too.
- Participate in school or extracurricular activities.
If your child’s school allows it, eat lunch with your child during your lunch hour. Arrange your schedule so that you can attend your child’s special events (like an awards ceremony). If your employer encourages volunteerism, spend time volunteering at your child’s school.
- Promote a family-friendly workplace.
If you are an employer, work with employees to arrange flexible work arrangements, time off for fathers and help with child care arrangements. If you are an employee, hang your child’s art in your work area, bring your child to work when allowed, and work with others to arrange flexible work arrangements.
- Create “family prime time.”
At the beginning of every month, schedule family time and put it on the calendar. Get input from all family members about fun activities and vacation ideas. Spend whatever time you have together, even if it is just a few minutes, to read a story or talk about your day.