(or, keeping my son from calling me “blah blah blah boring business work man”)
We need to prioritize family time and shield it from the creeping demands of work. How I resolve to do better in Year Two of writing Fathers, Work and Family, and a reminder for us all.
Work-Family Balance is Hard, Even for “The Expert”
A few weeks ago, I celebrated the first anniversary of Fathers, Work and Family (a blogaversary!)
While I am grateful for all the blog, and especially you have given me this past year (see the recent “Thank you” post), my first year as a blogger and as a public advocate for fathers’ work-family issues has also been a lot of work. I now find myself balancing my actual career, my family AND this blog and its related ventures. More on my plate than ever before.
I like watching sports as much as the next guy. But living life should always come first.
Being a New York sports fan, I have two football teams to follow. I’m a rabid Jets fan, but also follow the Giants. Last weekend, they both faced big early-season games.
So, when my wife said she wanted to take a family trip to the Storm King Arts Center (you should really go there if you are in the NY metro area), I was tempted to beg off to stay home and watch the games. I’m so glad I didn’t. Here’s why, in pictures.
How a conversation about my son’s favorite singer- Elvis Presley- helped me teach him a valuable lesson about drugs (and honest communication, and rock and roll…)
Resisting Pop Culture
In general I resist pop culture as it pushes our kids to grow up too damned fast. I do my best to shield my 8 year old, Nick, from the coarsening effects of pop culture, and I suspect you do as well. But it is really hard to do.
About two months ago, I wrote about my wife’s new show, and how her work hours would spike for several weeks. I discussed our family’s plan for handling this time period, considering my work commitments and increased duties at home. The show is over, so now it’s time to see how we did, and what lessons we learned.
(On Monday, I’ll be commenting on this week’s Pew Study’s findings on breadwinning moms and dual-career couples- SB)
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that my incredible wife Amy is a musical theater actress, and, depending on the project, her work schedule is often demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible.
About two months ago, Amy began work on an excellent new play, “The English Bride”. The play was very well-received (see this review!), so much so that it will run at the 59 E59 Theater off-Broadway, NYC in the Fall.
Our job as fathers is to equip our children to have productive, happy and meaningful lives. The best way to do so is by role-modeling the values, priorities and actions we hope they will aspire to.
At last, the finale! If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 and Part 2, which were posted last week. This article picks up where those left off.
Someday, and sooner than we think, my Nick (and your kids) will be making choices about their careers, marriages and families. When the time comes, I hope Nick will:
Choose a career that makes enough money for his life to be comfortable and so he can take care of his future family.
Choose a career he enjoys, finds interesting and meaningful, and through which he can make a larger contribution.
Understand the importance of balancing his career with that of his future life partner
Understand the relative importance of work and family while having a balanced set of priorities.
In the prior articles, I focused on the first three bullet points, Today, I’ll focus on the fourth.
One day, I hope Nick will be a father, and while I want him to value his own (part 1) and his spouse’s career (part 2), I reallywant him to know that family comes first. As in the case of the other lessons I’ve discussed, this is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how I try to juggle work and family, he sees a role model for himself- just like I did when observing my father. This article is much more about my father than it is about me.
4. Work has its place, but is never more important than family
Our job as fathers is to equip our children to have productive, happy and meaningful lives. In my opinion, the best way to do so is by role-modeling the values, priorities and actions to which we hope they will aspire.
One day, I hope Nick will get married, and I want him to value not just his own career, but also the career of his life partner. This is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how supportive I am of my wife Amy (and she is of me), he will seek out a supportive spouse and that he will value his spouse’s career as much as his own.
First off, if you haven’t already, please read Part 1, which I posted on Monday. This article picks up where that one left off.
What lessons about work and family should we be role-modeling for our children?
For me, I hope my son learns that work can bring fulfillment, meaning, and opportunities to help others- not just money. I also hope he learns that work-family balance means family first and that his career priorities should take his future spouse/family’s needs into account.
Young kids don’t fully understand why we sometimes have to be away from them and at work. They know they miss us, and they can get resentful- it’s only natural. In response, it is easy to say that we work for money- to buy them things- and that we’d rather not work and just be with them.
It’s a comforting story in the moment, but I bet it is not entirely true for most of us- and I think it actually sends a very different signal than what we should be sending.
Someday, and sooner than we think, my Nick* (and your kids) will be making choices about their careers. And I’d rather he understand that work is not JUST a chore, and not JUST about money. Right now, he wants to be a Jedi (he’d be really good at this!), baseball player, geologist, waiter and circus performer. But when the time comes, I want him:
To choose a career that makes enough money for his life to be comfortable and so he can take care of his future family.
To choose a career he enjoys, finds interesting and meaningful, and through which he can make a larger contribution.
To understand the importance of balancing his career with that of his future life partner (see part 2)
To understand the relative importance of work and family and of working towards a balanced set of priorities.
I once heard a quote that “the best way to teach your son to be a man, is to be a good man and let him watch”.
This is why I am very mindful about sending signals to my son about the importance of both work and family. These are hard things to teach directly in words, but I try to get these lessons through by my actions and by how I talk about work when he is around. Here’s what I hope he learns from me:
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.