How a Working Dad Champions Work-Family Balance
by: Brie Weiler Reynolds FlexJobs Director of Content & Community
Scott Behson wears quite a few hats. He’s an Associate Professor of Management and a popular blogger on the topics of fatherhood, work, and family. He’s also a husband and father, and his academic research focuses on the topics of workplace flexibility and work-family balance. Naturally, we couldn’t wait to talk to Scott! Read on for some great anecdotes about how husbands can help their wives “lean in” to their careers, how being a father can make you better at your job, and some great resources for working parents.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Scott: I’m a busy working dad, with a great wife and seven-year old son. I am an Associate Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where I teach and do research and consulting in human resource management and work-family issues. I feel so grateful for all life has given me.
Your blog, Fathers, Work, and Family, is dedicated to helping fathers balance work and family. When did you, as a father, start to become more aware of this need?
Scott: It started before I became a father myself. I was always close with my dad, and always had a paternal instinct.
When I started doing my doctoral research on workplace flexibility and work-family issues, I was stunned at the lack of attention paid to dads’ issues. Obviously, for a long time work-family issues were more associated with women joining the workplace, and the issue does probably resonate more for women. However, the complete lack of attention was jarring. Thankfully, there been some great dad-related research being done at Boston College and a few other places, and I’m trying to bring this information more directly to working fathers.
Momentum is really building, and I think the time is right to advocate for work-life balance and workplace flexibility as not just a women’s issue, but an issue that affects all of us.
How does being a better father make you better at your job?
Scott: I actually wrote a blog post about this (“Being a Father Makes You Better at Your Job” — it was one of my favorite and most well-received articles I ever wrote). I think the biggest benefits to me are that:
1. I’ve learned to be more patient with people who may not have the same level of expertise as I do in a particular subject.
2. I’ve learned to better separate the important from the less important at both home and at work.
3. I’ve learned to be more efficient with my work time.
4. I’m generally a happier guy.
5. The communication skills I developed from explaining the world to a six year old have really honed my communication skills, making me much more precise and better able to use humor to get points across.
There’s data from Boston College that bears much of these out on a broader sample of men, as well.
As a dad committed to encouraging more supportive workplaces, what are some of the steps you’d recommend readers take in their own workplaces to encourage management to embrace work-life balance?
Scott: Well, this may be hard to affect in the short-term. The best thing a rank-and-file worker can do is lead by example- by being a great employee, negotiating some part-time or informal flextime, and then continuing to be a great employee. By doing this, you may make the supervisors around you more willing to allow others to work flexibly.
If you are a manager, you can role model by talking about your family with your team, giving them the signal that it is okay for them (both men and women) to do so as well. Workplace culture changes slowly, through the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions. We can all contribute to that.
Obviously, those higher-up in their companies can have more sweeping effects on their workplaces. My guess is that when the generation of leaders who have experienced dual-career parents and their own dual-career marriages finally rises to top management, we will see accelerated change take place.
One of your more recent blog posts talked about how you help your wife, Amy, “lean in” to her career. What are some of the ways that husbands can support their wives as they pursue their careers?
Scott: In my case, my wife is a theater actress and works insanely long hours for relatively short periods of time (rehearsal), and then her schedule eases (being in a show) but she works evenings and weekends. When she’s in rehearsal, I pick up the slack at home (luckily I have a flexible job and can work around her schedule most of the time), when she’s in a show, we do a lot of shift-work, when she’s between gigs, she picks up the load and I “Lean in”.
It all starts with being up front about your priorities both as individuals and as a team. You have to really talk through these issues and commit to supporting each other as spouses/co-parents and in each other’s career.
At home, things don’t need to be a 50/50 split, and we shouldn’t keep score. However, both should feel like the other is respecting the other’s time and energy enough to help the other. If this respect exists, most of the minor problems go away.
My wife and I talk and plan before her work demands spike, so we are better able to handle these situations. It also helps to have a great network of friends, family and babysitters.
It also helps that I lucked into the best wife ever. (aww!)
What are some of your favorite resources for husbands and fathers (blogs, organizations, etc.) who want to embrace work-life balance?
Scott: On the academic side, Boston College’s Center for Work and Family, the Families and Work Institute, and the Work and Family Researchers Network (of which I am a member) provide great informational resources. Organizations and blogs like yours (aww again!), and ThirdPath Institute also do great work.
There are literally hundreds of fatherhood blogs out there where men can share their stories. I haven’t seen anyone else focus exclusively work-family issues for dads, but I think many fatherhood blogs can at least let men know that they are not alone and that many share their situation.
The best resource, I think, is to network with other dads in your life- the other dads at little league or dance recitals, in your neighborhood or at your kids’ school. Building up a local network of dads can help in terms of swapping off kids on playdates to open up time, but also to expand your circle of friends to get more social support and understanding.
Many dads struggle alone- but they don’t have to. In our neighborhood, a group of us get together from time to time for what we call beer fire- have a few beers around an outdoor fire pit. We hang out, relax, and inevitably talk about our kids and trying to be good dads. And that’s a really good way to build new friendships and a network of local dads you can lean on.
A very big “Thank You!” to Scott for taking time to talk to us, and for providing some great resources for working dads and working parents, including his own Fathers, Work and Family blog.
Readers – What stories do you have about trying to balance work and family? How are the dads (and moms) in your life able to hold it all together, and perhaps thrive?
Note: I have no professional or paid arrangement with flex jobs.com. I think they do good work, run a useful blog, and provide a lot of good information on flexible work arrangements.