7 Things I Learned from Reading “Overwhelmed” by Brigid Schulte

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Schulte is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It examines why so many of us feel so stressed and time-pressured and, more importantly, what we can do about it. Here are seven lessons I took from “Overwhelmed.”

"Overwhelmed" by Brigid Schulte expertly examines our hurried and conflicted lives and provides hard-won advice for us all
“Overwhelmed” by Brigid Schulte expertly examines our hurried and conflicted lives and provides hard-won advice for us all

Disclaimer: Schulte is a friend of mine, and we were both participants at recent White House Summit events. However, this article represents only my honest opinion; I received no compensation (never have, never will)- not even a free book!

With that, here are seven personal lessons that can help us feel less overwhelmed (The book also contains an analysis on how US culture, public policy, gender norms and corporate culture all contribute to “the Overwhelm,” but for now, let’s focus on things we can control):

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Hey Dads! This Christmas, Give the Gift of You

Our kids may want things, but they NEED time with their fathers more. This Christmas, instead of stuff, we should give our kids the opportunities to do more fun things with us. Here are a few ideas how.

Christmas is a special time for kids, but we can also use it as a way to build in more dad-and-kid time throughout the year
Christmas is a special time for kids, but we can also use it as a way to build in more dad-and-kid time throughout the year

A while ago, I wrote a piece (the most popular FWF post of 2013) in which I asked a bunch of dads how they want their kids to remember their dads and childhoods. The clear and consistent response was that dads wanted, more than anything, to be remembered as a constant, loving presence in their kids’ lives.

Buying the things on our kids’ Christmas lists is good and all, but it doesn’t really do anything to further this goal of building a childhood full of happy Dad-and-Kid memories that they can hold onto through their lives. Using Christmas as a way to purchase things that create opportunities for time together can. Here are a few suggestions:

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On Preventing Work (and Blogging) from Stealing Family Time

(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.

Here's me, hard at work on the blog. Nick hates walking into the living room and seeing me here
Here’s me, hard at work on the blog. Nick hates walking into the living room and seeing me here

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.

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Regular Exercise Can Help Us Be Better Dads

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!

Exercise and fatherhood all in one!
Exercise and fatherhood all in one!

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.”

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Escaping the Middle-Class Parenting Trap

What one stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) and his family are doing to create a better long-term work-family balance, with all the trade-offs and sacrifices this entails.

A few months ago, Oren Miller wrote the following on his excellent blog, A Father and a Blogger. He was nice enough to let me repost it here, and even provided a short follow up to the article. He’s a great writer, and a good fellow-dad-blogger friend. Enjoy:

Escaping the Middle-Class Parenting Trap

Guest blogger Oren MIller shares his work-life story
Guest blogger Oren MIller shares his work-life story

Our family is going through some difficult changes now.

To escape our ironic lifestyle, to be able to see her kids more than a tired hour per day, my wife has found a new job. This job will allow her to work from home a lot, which is the good part. The bad part is that there will probably be a lot of travel, too. And the worst part is that now, because it’s a new job, she must leave home and travel to the end of the world (Seattle), and stay there for a couple of weeks (then return to Baltimore for a week, then again to Seattle for even longer).

It’s not going to be easy for me, it’s not going to be easy for the kids, and it’s definitely not going to be easy for my wife, who will have to settle for Skype to see her kids.

But it’s worth it.

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The Challenges and Opportunities of Fathers, Work and Family, All in One Awesome Graphic

Fathers are more involved than ever. Fathers continue to face intense work pressures, inflexible workplace expectations- and are now feeling increased work-family imbalance and stress. A fantastic graphic from the NYC Dads Group and What to Expect shows the challenges men face today. The graphic illustrates why I am so passionate about fathers’ work-family challenges and the work we all need to do.

Welcome Thursday with Thirdpath Callers!

The guys at NYC Dads Group do incredible work. They have over 700 members throughout New York City- dads helping dads through peer support, new dad boot camps, meet-ups, podcasts, a great blog, and- nearest and dearest to my heart- information and resources for dads all over the country to start and grow their own dads groups (although I would rebrand them as BEER FIRES!)

NYC Dads Group recently partnered up with What to Expect, did some research on factors affecting fathers today (using valid data sources like Boston College’s “New Dads” study, Pew Surveys, and the Families and Work Institute), and presented the issues in one stunningly brilliant infographic. Here it is:

Please click "read more" to see this entire great infographic
Please click “read more” to see this entire great infographic

(full picture after the jump)

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Taking A Break From Parenting Benefits Everyone (or, In Praise of “Me” Time For Dads)

X-2 hours a week of effective, involved parenting > X hours of distracted or stressed-out parenting

If we never get away, they’ll never get the chance to miss us. If we never put ourselves first, they’ll take for granted we’re always there. If we don’t put on our oxygen masks on first, we can’t help them with theirs.

Sometimes it has to be all about you
Sometimes it has to be all about you

When you criticize guys for playing golf and fantasy football, you are bound to get some brushback. I totally understand that, even if those articles were written more as humor pieces than serious dad advice.

If you’ve been following the blog, you may have seen my articles about “Time Sucks to Avoid.” Leisure time is crucial- but IMO, golf and fantasy football are two activities that take up too much time away from work or family relative to their psychological and social benefits. I recommended that dads find other outlets that don’t take up so much valuable time.

When the anti-golf piece was reprinted at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine, I was struck by an incredibly insightful comment:

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NCAA Tournament Coaches- Michigan’s John Beilein (Final Four!) and Belmont’s Rick Byrd- Career Priorities, and Tradeoffs

Coaches Beilein and Byrd took different paths to the NCAA tournament, involving different work-life trade-offs. What we could learn from their stories.

Both Beilein and Byrd are fixtures during March Madness
Both Beilein and Byrd are fixtures during March Madness

I’m not a big college sports fan, but I enjoy March Madness. The school spirit, close games, tantalizing upsets are a perfect recipe for excitement.

But this year, something else caught my attention. Some coaches, like legends Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski, have helmed prestigious programs for decades. Most coaches aren’t that fortunate.

To climb the ranks of college basketball, coaches often parlay success at a smaller program into a new job at a larger one, often changing employers many times until reaching the highest ranks. This ambition and career focus is admirable, but must come at a cost to other aspects of life. Imagine moving your family cross-country five times in a 20 year period? This has to take a toll.

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Recent Pew Survey Shows Progress and Challenges for Dads’ Work-Family Balance

Recent surveys show that more dads are stepping up at home, while maintaining their commitments to their careers. In many ways, this marks progress, but also presents challenges to involved working dads. How can we better handle these challenges?

A slideshow of Pew’s Findings:
Modern Parenthood
Men Are Committed to Both Work and Family

There is growing evidence from the recently released Pew Research Center study of parenthood, as well as from Boston College’s Center for Work and Family and the Families and Work Institute that men are facing increasing work-family conflict and stress as they expand their involvement in the home and with their kids, but continue to feel pressure to provide and to stay fully dedicated to their employers.

In some ways, it is the converse of what working women have been facing for some time. Men are expanding their commitment to home, while facing pressure to maintain their time and commitment in the workplace- in short, men face many of the same challenges as women in terms of “having it all”.

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Why Women (nope) Men (nope) NO ONE Can “Have It All”

It is not surprising to me that “women still can’t have it all” and “men can’t have it all either.” The simple fact is  Women Men No One Can Have It All

Over the past generation or so, we’ve seen a huge shift in expectations and opportunities for women. While much progress has been made (and we are all the better for it), women still face stereotypes and discrimination as they “try to have it all” and move beyond traditional role expectations.

The current difficulties for women in the workplace and women trying to balance work and family were covered brilliantly by Anne-Marie Slaughter in a recent Atlantic cover story (and far more stupidly superficially by Ann Friedman in NY Magazine). Slaughter’s article deservedly received accolades and huge amounts of media attention, and I know I’m very late to the party in commenting on it. (And to her immense credit, Slaughter also wrote a great follow-up piece on men, work and family)

In short, Slaughter makes the case that women still face significant obstacles and difficulties as they try to remain heavily involved in their traditional roles (parenting, caretaking) while also expanding their involvement in traditional men’s roles (providing, working outside the home).

There is increasing evidence that the converse is increasingly true for men. Men now face significant obstacles and difficulties as they try to remain heavily involved in their traditional roles (providing, working outside the home) while also expanding their involvement in traditional women’s roles (parenting, caretaking).

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How To Buy More Time With Your Family

I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone (and is absolutely a first-world problem), but I suspect many of the busy career-oriented dads reading this blog have more money than time at their disposal. Luckily the one can be traded for the other- there are many ways to buy yourself time. This time can then be better spent on being a great dad than on housely tasks that sap your (and/or your wife’s) energy. Here are a few examples of things we can do to buy time. Your mileage may vary, and I’d love to get your ideas in the comments section.

If you can afford it, you can spend $ to free up more time to spend with the family
If you can afford it, you can spend $ to free up more time to spend with the family

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Expert Perspectives: Are Your Finances Foiling Your Job Flexibility?

A guest post by Pat Katepoo

While I spend some time with Nick, my friend, Pat Katepoo takes over today with a GREAT guest post.  I'll be back on Thursday.
While I spend some time with Nick, my friend, Pat Katepoo takes over today with a GREAT guest post. I’ll be back on Thursday.

Last week, I heard from a state government employee who told me his current job provides him with “much flexibility and work life balance.”

Josiah (name/details changed to preserve anonymity) said he works an average of 35 hours a week, plus he can flex his hours as needed to meet family needs that come up. Oh, and he makes more than $125,000 a year.

All that’s the good news.

The bad news? Impending state-mandated furloughs along with 12% across-the-board pay cuts. It’s a salary slashing Josiah says he can’t absorb, forcing him to respond to an opening for another higher-paying job. A job where the culture is far from flexible.

Josiah came to me with his dilemma: “I’m devastated about the pay cut, but even more scared of the prospect of going to a new job where I no longer have the flexible schedule I currently have.”

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