The house was strangely calm, and people were having appropriate, civilized conversation. I looked around, and realized that Uncle Steve, the family court jester, was missing. Grandma Jean, who was celebrating her 54th wedding anniversary, must have read my mind: “Hey! Where’s Steve?! I thought he was comin’?” she yelled to the group.
His wife sighed and answered, “He really wanted to make it, but he worked late and had to mow the lawn, plus he has to pick the kids up from youth group and soccer practice – he just didn’t have time to stop by.” Although we were all a little bummed that we’d been left to entertain ourselves, we understood — Steve had a lot on his plate.
Although a busy schedule is nothing new for most parents, the struggling economy has definitely added pressure to working dads — who may find themselves working longer hours, or even second jobs. In fact, according to CareerBuilder’s annual Father’s Day survey, 42 percent of working dads said they are the sole provider for their household and nearly one-in-ten (9 percent) have taken on a second job in the last 12 months to provide for their family. Additionally, one-in-ten working dads said their spouse or significant other has become unemployed in the last 12 months.
All this added stress at work often means more time spent at the office and less quality time spent with family. According to the survey, 63 percent of working dads said they work more than 40 hours per week, with 31 percent reporting that they typically bring work home five days a week or more. Close to four- in-ten working dads said they spend two hours or less with their children each work day.
Although a work/life balance may be tough to achieve, it’s not impossible. “Especially in tough times, working dads have to be more creative and strategic to successfully juggle both work and family commitments,” said Jason Ferrara, VP Corporate Marketing at CareerBuilder and father of two. “Employers understand the importance of working dads’ time away from the office and continue to place an emphasis on work/life balance through benefits that encourage employees to better manage their schedules. However, year over year, we find that nearly half of working dads do not take advantage of the flexible work arrangements offered to them.”
Ferrara recommends the following tips for working dads navigating through difficult economic times:
Communicate – Try and sit down for family dinners a few times a week. It’s the perfect opportunity to listen to what is going on in your family’s lives, and talk about what is going on in your office. Sharing the reasons behind your busy schedule will help everyone understand why you are away or have to do some work when you are home.
Learn to say no – Besides time spent in the office, activities associated with work can also eat away at free time. You don’t have to say yes to every dinner, seminar or golf invitation that’s sent your way. Determine what additional activities are necessary, and which you can turn down.
Develop a master family calendar – Keep a calendar at home with each family member’s important events, from soccer games and field trips, to weddings and work parties. Arrange to use vacation days for anything you can’t miss.
Play now, work later – Chances are, your kids go to bed before you do. Wait until they go to sleep before finishing up work or checking e-mail.
Plan a family event in your office – You’re probably not the only dad in the office. Get together with co-workers to plan a kid-friendly potluck or event. Summer is a perfect time to do so, since kids are out of school, and the office may be less hectic.