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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My Work-Family Balance Story

After a month or so of writing this blog, I realize that I should have started from the beginning- by sharing my own work-family balance story.  So, please allow myself to introduce…myself…

I’m a very lucky dad!

I’m lucky in that, as a college professor, I have a career with a lot of built-in flexibility in terms of where and when I get most of my work done.  Aside from classes, office hours and occasional meetings and campus events (usually about 15-20 hours a week), all my other work- class prep, grading, research writing, statistical analysis, committee work- can be done from anywhere at anytime- as long as it gets done (my work motto: have laptop, will travel).  I could be grading, preparing, teaching or even writing this blog in my pajamas from the Bahamas, although it is usually from the dining room table.

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Follow the Fathers, Work and Family Blog: Raise Money for the National Fatherhood Initiative!

I am very grateful that, in the first month and a half of FWFblog, we’ve built a readership and community.  According to WordPress.com’s site statistics, FWF is at over 2000 page views- that’s over 130 views per post.  Thank you for coming to the blog, and especially for coming back.

But I’m not satisfied with a small but growing active readership- I want world domination! a large and growing active readership!

Maybe this cute picture of me and Nicky will persuade you to support the National Fatherhood Initiative

In my day job, I’m a management professor, so I always teach my students about the power of goal-setting and well-aligned incentives.  So, I have set a goal for the blog: 100 readers who follow the FWF through email, Twitter or WordPress by the end of the year.   Right now, we’re at 29, so we have a way to go.

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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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Golf: “Time-Suck” to Avoid #1 (or, the post in which I piss off half my readership)

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article.   Time Suck– (n) Something that’s engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children. (from UrbanDictionary.com) Perhaps the greatest … Read more

On Work and Fatherhood Priorities (with Bill Bryson and Ferris Bueller)

How could I turn down a chance to play catch with him? Work can wait.

Bill Bryson is my favorite author, and puts my writing skills to shame.  His humorous travel writing (e.g., In a Sunburned Country, A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s African Diary, Neither Here Nor There), memoirs (e.g., The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I’m a Stranger Here Myself), and science/history books (A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home) are all fantastic.  He may have written the best passage about Fathers, Work and Family that I have ever read.   The following is excerpted from “On Losing a Son (to College)” from Bill Bryson’s book I’m a Stranger Here Myself, 1999:

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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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In Praise of Flexible Workplace Cultures

Last week, I wrote about work-family culture, and the questions The Families and Work Institute uses to assess this part of organizational culture.  I hope you enjoyed it (and I can wait for you here if you want to refer back.  Ok, ready?).  Now, here are the Families and Work Institute’s measures for general autonomy and flexibility:

  1. I have the freedom to decide what I do on my job
  2. It is basically my own responsibility to decide how my job gets done
  3. I have a lot of say about what happens on my job
  4. How easy is it for you to take time off during your workday to take care of personal or family matters (I reworded this item to keep the response scale consistent)

Now, let’s think about these, in comparison to the work-family questions from the prior post

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Parenting Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Periodically, Fathers, Work, and Family will feature a guest post from a working dad relating some of their experiences, struggles and advice.  In this way, we can all benefit from multiple perspectives and start building a community on this blog.  If you’d like to participate, please email me (you can find the email here) and we can discuss what you’d like to share.

The first installment in this series comes from my good friend (and more importantly, loyal blog reader), Neil Cohen, who also has an great blog of his own, Man on Third, to which I highly recommend you subscribe.  Enjoy. 

Neil and Alex
Guest blogger Neil Cohen and his son, Alex.

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My Review of NBC’s “Guys with Kids” (or this is the best our culture can do? Really?)

Gratuitous Father-Son Picture

“Dad as doofus” humor is the backbone of many TV sitcoms, as has been since the very beginning.  Unfortunately, the “batting average” for this easy type of humor is not very high.  There are a few home runs (Homer Simpson or Michael Bluth), some clean singles (Ray Romano, Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, et al), and lots of strikeouts (George Lopez or anyone on “Yes Dear”).  And I am not the first to speak out against the lazy TV stereotype of the clueless dad.Very few shows have taken a nuanced look into modern fatherhood and the work and fatherhood conundrum most of us face- “Up all Night” and “Parenthood” are two current shows that do this (I’m sure there are more, but, who has time for lots of TV?).  Considering all we committed, working dads are dealing with, the time seems right for a smart, incisive comedy commenting on our issues.

“Guys with Kids” is not that show. 

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What’s the Work-Family Culture Like in Your Workplace?

The Families and Work Institute has been surveying people about work and family issues for the past two decades in their National Studies of the Changing Workforce.  If you follow their results over time, it is encouraging to note that more and more respondents report that their workplaces and jobs are more flexible and supportive than ever.  There is a still a long way to go, and progress is stronger in some industries and for certain types of jobs. And, while workplaces have become, in general, more flexible and “family friendly”, the pressures and expectations to devote more and more hours either at work or working on job responsibilities continue to increase.

In this post, I’d like to share with you the questions the Families and Work Institute asks in their surveys in terms of workplace flexibility and support for balancing work and family roles.  This may help you think through and assess how your workplace stacks up, and what barriers or supports you may face in your workplace. 

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