What I Want My Son to Learn About Work and Family (part 3): Family First

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.

I hope I can role-model work-family priorities for Nick as well as my father did for me
I hope I can role-model work-family priorities for Nick as well as my father did for me

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 really want 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

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What I Want My Son to Learn About Work and Family (part 2): My Wife’s Career is as Important as Mine

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.

I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
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.

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What I Want My Son to Learn About Work and Family (part 1)

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.

I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son
I hope I can role-model good work-family values for my son

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:

1. Work is for money, and money is important.

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How a Working Dad (*me*) Champions Work-Family Balance (repost from FlexJobs.com)

The folks at flexjobs.com were nice enough to interview me for a feature on their website. Here’s a copy of the article.

How a Working Dad Champions Work-Family Balance

by:  FlexJobs Director of Content & Community

Flexjobs.com interviewed me, and made me look really good. Thanks!!!!
Flexjobs.com interviewed me, and made me look really good. Thanks!!!!

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.

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Taking My Own Advice on Fatherhood, Work and Family (or, helping my wife Lean In)

My wife just started a new show, leaving me to shoulder the load for a while so I can help her “Lean In” to her career. Four ways our family is preparing, plus a plea for advice.

My wife's career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling
My wife’s career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

I’ve written before about my wife’s career as a stage actress and the work-family challenges it presents:.

Amy is a musical theater actress, and her work schedule is demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible (but, even in her brutally competitive field, she is talented enough to be working all the time!).  If she’s called for an audition, it is often scheduled for tomorrow! and it cannot be rescheduled to fit her preferences.

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A Working Parent’s Guide to Surviving a Snow Day

When you have two working parents, unexpected days without school can really put you out. Snow days are awesome for kids. Not so for parents. By planning ahead, we can make them easier for us to handle.

Snow days are great for kids, but not so much for working parents!
Snow days are great for kids, but not so much for working parents!

Dear God, Don’t Let Them Cancel School!

Not long ago, I was awoken at 5am by the home telephone. Considering the time, and since no one (except my mom or telemerketers) calls me on the home phone, my disorientation turned to dread as I saw that it had begun to snow overnight. Before I could reach the phone, the answering machine picked up and I heard:

“This is an important message from the Nyack school district. Classes are cancelled for the day”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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Introducing Nick to Star Wars

19 Dad Bloggers were asked the question “When/How To Introduce Your Kids to Star Wars?” You can read the entire piece here. Here’s my entry:

Star Wars has been a great bonding experience for me and Nick!
Star Wars has been a great bonding experience for me and Nick!

I’m a planner by nature, and I think the world is in a rush to have our kids grow up too fast. So, I delayed Star Wars until Nick was 6 (he’s now 7 ½). I LOVE Star Wars and wanted him to love it too- I figured premature exposure may ruin it.

What pushed me over the edge, despite my hesitations, was when I was called to do a customer focus group for some unknown product. It turns out the focus group was to get reactions to new Lego Star Wars products (awesome!), and the room was full of Dads about my age with kids about my son’s age. Almost all of them had shared Star Wars with their kids by then, and especially extolled the virtues of the Lego Star Wars video game.

The next day, I showed Nick some you tube clips- as a way to gauge his interest (through the roof), expose him to characters (he instantly was head over heels for Darth Maul!), and talk about basic plot points. I figured this would make the movies easier for him to understand and enjoy.

It worked!

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Put Down the Smartphone During Parenting Time!

Smartphones- Time Suck to Avoid #3 (or, I’m Going To Texting From DisneyLand!!!)

While checking work emails on my phone, I almost missed out on this!
While checking work emails on my phone, I almost missed out on this!

My family and I flew down to Disney World the first week of January. We’re a Disney family and love being in the happiest place on Earth.

The first week in January is a very slow work time for me- it is just after the holidays and still two weeks from the beginning of the spring semester. I am filling in for our department chair this semester (she’s on a well-deserved sabbatical) so I did have things to get done, but there was nothing super-pressing for me to finish until I got back from Florida and back on campus.

However, while waiting in lines with Amy and Nick, I found myself checking for work emails on my ancient Blackberry (seriously, I think I’m the last Blackberry customer still out there- 2% market share of new phone sales!!!). Well, that’s not so bad, I’m just waiting in line.

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Holiday Gratitude

Thanks for making me feel like the Richest Man in Town

Even better than this!

A few big milestones for FWF this week.  Thank you all for making them happen.

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The FatherBlogger Next Door

One of the more rewarding aspects of starting a blog about fatherhood is consistently reading other related blogs and connecting with their authors.

Today, I’d like to highlight one of my favorite fatherhood bloggers- Jeff, who runs the blog, Ay yo, Be a Father!. His blog is an entertaining, well-written and thought-provoking- I highly recommend following the blog (I especially liked his post, Score another one for the mama).

In blogging, as well as in life, you gotta have friends!
In blogging, as well as in life, you gotta have friends!

However, it is more the blogger himself, rather than his blog, that I’d like to highlight. Jeff was the first fatherblogger to stumble upon FWF in its infancy. He reached out initially by making thoughtful comments on the blog and eventually through email. In the early days of FWF, Jeff offered me needed positive encouragement while demonstrating the importance of reaching out to fellow fatherbloggers. From the man himself:

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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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We’re still digging out from Hurricane Sandy, so just a few quick thoughts today

First, please send prayers and any tangible help you can to coastal NYC- my hometown of Staten Island, as well as the Jersey Shore, Southern Long Island, and low-lying areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan are in really bad shape.  People lost their lives and homes, and many are without basic necessities.

All in all, my four days without power and heat is nothing to get worked up about. Everyone’s safe and unharmed and really that’s all that matters.

Luckily, my town had some big Halloween events, including our FANTASTIC PARADE last weekend, so we got to do great stuff like this ahead of the storm, even if trick-or-treating was a no-go.

The storm and my local community’s response to it illustrates a few Fatherhood, Work and Family issues I’d like to highlight.

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