A few weeks ago, Harvard Business Review Online published my latest article, “Relax, You Have 168 Hours This Week.” This is my eighth article for them (click here to see a list of them all), and one I am particularly proud of. In the piece, I use time management techniques to illustrate how we, as busy working parents can find enough time for career, family and life. Please click on the picture below or here to go to the full article, or see below for an excerpt.
I learned many life lessons from my father, and I sure hope I’m passing these along to my son.
Last week, the fun lifestyle website DailyPlatofCrazy.com ran a feature for articles about men looking back at their childhoods with their fathers. Please click on the screencap below for my contribution to the series. It’s about baseball, Star Wars, and the values I learned from my dad and am trying to model for Nick.
What memories do you have as a kid that you are now sharing with your kids? What lessons are you trying to impart? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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Part 1 of a Series on Stephen Covey, Personal Renewal and Fatherhood
Many busy dads can’t find the time to exercise. But we need to make the time to take care of our bodies, so we can be better, more effective fathers. As Stephen Covey says, we need to do the important, not just the urgent!
Like you, I spend a lot of time at work, and while at home, I tend to put my family’s needs first. But it would be better- for everyone- if we took some time to focus on replenishing ourselves.
The Important vs. The Urgent
Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is the most useful book I ever read. In it, Covey writes about spending a few hours every week on personal renewal, what he calls “sharpening the saw.”
“When your kids become adults, how do you want them to remember their childhoods with you?” Almost all fathers want to be remembered as being a consistent positive presence in their children’s lives. Making this happen requires aligning our actions with our priorities.
Modern Dad Workshops
John Badalament is a true pioneer in work-family issues for dads. He wrote a great book, made a documentary, and writes and conducts dads workshops all aimed at equipping men to be better, more present fathers. I had read his book a long time ago, and was happy to have met him in person at the Thirdpath Institute Summit this past May.
In his workshops, he asks this question as a prioritization exercise:
“When your kids become adults, how do you want them to remember their childhoods with you?”
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.
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
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:
1. Work is for money, and money is important.
(or, The Dangers of Valuing Money More than People)
Mark Promislo is a husband, father of two young girls, and a management professor at Rider University (and a friend, but most importantly an active blog reader and commenter!), who recently authored a great study on the effects of materialism on work-family conflict. I asked him a few questions about his life, his work, and his study– which I think has implications for working dads.