Fete des peres blog post

How being the best father also works professionally

In 2020, do we still have to make the choice between money, a title, career opportunities, ... and parenthood? Despite changing views, it often seems that way, but it’s not impossible to somewhat balance work and parenthood.

You choose, you lose is a common expression, but does it have to be the same for the work-life balance? After all, choosing in favour of one is not choosing against the other. We must strive to replace the old or... or mentality with and... and.

Not willing or not able?

For many fathers, that choice is a reality. Research from WorkingFamilies shows that 36% of fathers don’t have enough time for their child, while 40% would like to play a more active role in their children's lives. Where theres a will, theres a way, so why doesnt this happen in real life?

Apparently, there are still stereotypes and taboos surrounding parenthood among men, like your role in society having priority over your role as a father, while ideally, both those roles should come first. Also, for example, many men still dont take their ten days of birth leave, even though they’re entitled to it. Men are still hindered in their paternity by the outdated stereotypes of women as caretakers and men as providers.

Maintaining the work-life balance

A good work-life balance is a win-win for both employers and employees. After all, a balance between your job and your personal life leads to less absenteeism and stress, and as an employee, you’re more involved and more positive towards challenges and obstacles.

There used to be ‘natural networks’: parents, friends and family who could take care of the children from time to time. But because everyone has to work longer, these natural networks exist less. The key word for parents who want a work-life balance is therefore flexibility, from both employee and employer. Employees need to have a say in how much, when, and where they work. And in many places, this should be possible, because the Coronavirus situation has shown how much is possible in terms of working independent of time and place.

Tips for working parents

Working parents can make some changes themselves to unite their work and private life. That’s why we’ve collected 11 tips so you can harmonise your personal and professional life:

  1. Try not to ask your boss for more flexibility, try to sell it to them. Be specific and focus on the mutual benefits of flexibility. Not all employers are childless machines who work day and night.
  2. Avoid planning your meetings and your most important assignments at the start or end of a day. Rather, plan them in the middle, ideally between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. With a child, you can never be 100% efficient, so it’s a good idea to give yourself some breathing space for any unforeseen situations raising a child entails.
  3. Use the same skills you need at work when raising your child. Someone with organisational talents can work well with schedules, fixed routines and time management. A creative parent can easily transform a problem into a challenge and can change all available we-time into ‘wow-time’.
  4. It takes a village to raise a child, and it’s your duty as a parent to build and maintain that village like you would a project at work. The foundations, like for a village, are the most important part, and just like you invest money into insurance for your house, time investments are necessary for your child’s development. The expression that ‘time is money’ is equally applicable here.
  5. Take your time to evaluate the situation. Talk to your partner about the work-life balance. Try to make some small changes, like one partner starting and ending work early. Test out these changes for maybe two weeks, and then evaluate how you feel about them.
  6. Patience and delegating tasks are also crucial when raising your child. You can’t do everything yourself, and you don’t have to. Just be selective and don’t be afraid to ask for help or to outsource some tasks.
  7. It doesn’t matter how long you work, but how efficiently. Working on something until it’s perfect, is not efficient, and your extra efforts cost extra time. Perfectionism is a blessing for people with 72-hour days, but for most of us, it leads to lost time, frustration and stress. Make sure to know the difference between healthy perfectionism – you deliver quality work, but you know when to be happy: good is good enough – and unhealthy perfectionism – excessive perfectionists are less productive and effective, procrastinate and lose themselves in details.
  8. Envision your ideal balance between work and parenthood and strive for that vision. But make sure to stay realistic: you can’t go to every school excursion, you can’t be home every holiday, you can’t accompany them to every hobby, …
  9. Share your responsibilities with your partner and use a schedule. That way, both parents are on the same wavelength and both get their fair share of parent time.
  10. Learn from your mistakes and from criticism, both at your job and in parenthood, and ask counsel from other working parents. The first child that comes into the world with a manual, is yet to be born.
  11. Think back of which memories had the greatest impact on you. Do you remember the neatly ironed clothes and the home cooked meals, or rather playing football in the park and tackling those pesky multiplication tables together?

Tips for the employer

The right work-life balance is not a one-way street. The employer also plays an important role. Here are some tips for employers:

  1. Be engaged in your employees’ parenthood. Even an informal conversation about the children’s lives gives employees the feeling that their situation is taken into account. Make sure to consider them in internal communications too, such as policy updates or meetings.
  2. Ask working parents what they need. If the employer takes the initiative, employees are more likely to talk about their needs and wishes open-heartedly. Open communication and flat hierarchies are important here: the flatter the hierarchy, the more an employee has the feeling that the employer is open to communication, the more the employee is willing to discuss a proposal.
  3. Use technology to let employees work more flexibly. That way, parents can do their jobs as well or better than before, without interrupting their family life.
  4. Invest in employee benefits, such as flexible working hours, working from home or training general-purpose staff. A happy employee is a productive employee.
  5. For employees in large companies, additional facilities for household tasks are a huge benefit. Some large companies, for example, have a day-care, services for groceries or ironing, or satellite offices.

An ideal work-life balance is a nice target, but just like raising a child, it takes time and effort. Something to think about... But first, don’t forget to celebrate Father’s Day enjoying the half-spilled breakfast in bed, including the lukewarm coffee and bright faces.

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