Balancing Parenthood, Couplehood and Work by Committing to Each Other’s Careers

Disclaimer- Like all of us, I find balancing work and family to be a constant challenge, and I certainly make my share of mistakes. In this piece, I’d like to discuss something that works well for my family. My intent is to share my experience, not to self-congratulate. 

Finally, an excuse for me to post a wedding picture!

As I detailed in this prior post, my wife, Amy, is a musical theater actress and her career presents interesting challenges to balancing work and family.

When Amy and I got engaged, my well-meaning-but-from-a-different-generation Italian great-aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc got to meet her for the first time. When they met Amy, they were welcoming, lovely and gracious. However, to a person, they asked Amy, “So, are you still going to be an actress now that you’re getting married?”

At first, this question puzzled Amy. She smiled and responded with grace and humor that “Yes, and Scott is still going to be a professor.”

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On Prioritizing Time and Money: “Ten years ago I turned my head for a moment and it became my life”

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article. It was also republished at the Dads Round Table.

Poet David Whyte wrote a great book, “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America” aimed at helping people find meaning and balance in their careers (and here I thought poets just lived in their mom’s basements while pulling a few shifts at a hipster coffee shop).  There is a one-line poem in his book that, 18 years ago, led me to reassess my professional goals:

“Ten years ago, I turned my head for a moment and it became my life.”

Today, this poem makes me think about our roles as fathers and providers, and the needs of those who depend on us.  Not what they want, but what they need.  Here’s my stab at a priority list (in order):

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Negotiating for Flexibility at Work: Why Bosses Say “No” to Flexible Work Arrangements (and what you can do about it).

Part 1 of a Series: They’re Bad at Evaluating Performance

Let’s face it, despite some prominent examples of companies with progressive cultures when it comes to work-family balance (see this list for examples), most company cultures and supervisors are not particularly supportive, especially of dads trying to balance work and family.  Most companies demand long work hours and promote “face time” or “time at the office” as proxy measures for performance and dedication to the company (see this article for an excellent discussion).

“So, Peter, what’s happening? Ummm, I’m gonna have to ask you to come in this weekend… That’s great. okay?”

It is brave to stand out and make a case for a time and place flexibility for your work.   However, that’s not to say that it is impossible, and, depending on your situation, it may be well worth it despite the risks.

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The Dangers of Over-Scheduling (or, relax, Scott, Nicky will almost certainly not be an Olympic gymnast)

The idea for this post came to me while sitting in traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge taking my son Nick to gymnastics.

Nick at gymnastics

More than anything, our kids need time with their dads.  Even more than that, they need time with us when we are truly present- not surreptitiously texting, not stressing out about what we need to do at work tomorrow, but truly focused on our kids and making the time we have (limited as it sometimes is) really enjoyable.  We all know this, but it is often hard to carve out the time (see my previous post about family dinners for more on this topic). 

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Networking for Fatherhood (or, in praise of BEER FIRE!)

My friend and neighbor, Francesco, who is a terrific dad, (and, more importantly, a loyal blog reader!), has a semi-regular tradition of inviting his local guy friends to hang out by the fire pit in his backyard with a cooler full of beer.   We’ve come to calling this brilliant innovation BEER FIRE!  (and I maintain he be nominated for the MacArthur Genius Grant for this revolutionary idea)

Beer Fire! A fun a useful way to network with other dads
Beer Fire! A fun a useful way to network with other dads

Beer Fire usually consists of 8-10 forty-something guys, most of whom are balancing interesting and rewarding careers with the rigors of being fathers to young kids, simply getting a chance to relax,  hang out, swap stories, have a few beers, and get to know each other.

Beer Fire is awesome, and I have benefitted greatly from attending- it’s relaxing; it’s fun, and I always learn a little something from everyone I talk to.

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