Chronic Overwork: The Dangers of Treating Your Career Marathon Like a Sprint

Chronic overwork can lead to work-family imbalance, reduced effectiveness and burnout. Occasional overwork is a necessity; chronic overwork is detrimental. Here’s why we need to pace ourselves. On October 11th, my second article for the Harvard Business Review blog was published. It was the most read and commented upon article on the HBR website for a whole week, and has … Read more

Downshifting: 5 Ways to Slow Down Your Career for Family

“Downshifters” are those who eschew the career ladder and choose alternative paths that open up more time for family or other pursuits. For many, the trade-off is more than worth it. This article discusses 5 common types of downshifting.

“The problem with winning the rat race is… you’re still a rat” –Lily Tomlin

For me, plateauing my career opens up more time for family.

When we think about career paths, we often think about climbing the ladder- stepping up our career one rung at a time to positions of greater status, demands, responsibilities and financial rewards. Career advancement is great, but it often comes at a cost- to mental and physical health and especially to time spent with family.

Perhaps there’s another way. A way that opens up time for a more well-rounded life.

Life in the (slightly slower) Lane

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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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Taking Turns to Balance Work and Family

“Sharing Experiences” is a series of posts in which a variety of dads, all in different work-family situations, share their experiences. I hope this series can forward the important conversations we have here, and spark ideas we can apply to our own lives.

Guest blogger, Erik Eddy and his wife Margie and son Jackson.
Guest blogger, Erik Eddy and his wife Margie and son Jackson.

Supporting Each Other’s Careers By Taking Turns

In kindergarten, we learn the importance of sharing and taking turns. Erik and Margie Eddy took this lesson and built a successful family life

By Erik Eddy, as told to Scott Behson

My wife, Margie, and I met in college, and got married the year she graduated. She decided to pursue a Masters degree in Higher Education from Bowling Green State University, so I tailed along and enrolled in their MBA program. We were young, in love and completely poor. Somehow, we managed to get by on a $9000 stipend and a $7500 student loan for the two years it took to complete our degrees.

When Margie finished her program, one of my business professors approached me about following her to the PhD program she was joining at SUNY Albany.  After talking it through with Margie, we went off to Albany where I pursued my PhD while Margie began her career as an Assistant Dean of Students at Smith College. At this point, she was working to support me as I continued my education.

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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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