How to Balance Work and Family
There are still just 24 hours in a day, but now that you are a dad you are trying to jam in a full workday, a commute, time for her, time for the kids, time for you (if you're lucky) and hopefully a few hours of shut-eye in there somewhere too. Whew! You have a full - no, overflowing - plate of responsibilities and commitments. Without finding a balance between all of those elements, someone or something is going to suffer. So here are a few tips for making time for everything and everyone in your life.
Flexible Work Schedule
Compressed work week - Many companies will allow you to work four, 10-hour days instead of five, 8-hour days. This will give you one day off a week to take care of your child(ren).
Alternate work times - Some couples work completely opposite schedules (one works nights, the other works days) while others do something in between, such as one starting work later and staying later in order to take the child in the morning, while the other goes in early and comes home early to look after the child in the afternoon/evening. This can be hard on the parental relationship as it doesn't allow much time to see each other, but it does work for some couples.
Part time - If your financial situation can handle the reduced income, working part-time can provide ample opportunity to spend with your kids.
Working from Home - While working from home conjures up idealistic visions of working in your pajamas while the kids play quietly by themselves, the reality is closer to grabbing a few minutes of work while the kids are napping. Working from home may still require a baby-sitter during the day so you can get work done, but you will still be there for lunch and snacks.
Stay-at-home Dad - Stay-at-home dads are a growing trend, as are associated support systems such as SAHD blogs, forums and dad playgroups. Staying at home full-time isn't for everyone and the reduced income can be stressful. However, the close bond you create with your children is priceless.
Prioritize Your Commitments
Even the most well-organized and dedicated parent can get overwhelmed and stretched in all directions. Sit down and make a list of your commitments and activities and how many hours each day or week go towards each one. How do the hours add up? Where can you make some changes to ensure your hours are in line with your priorities? Make time for those that really matter to you and learn to say "no" to those that don't.
If you're stuck at the office and it's your child's bedtime, call home and talk to him or her just to say goodnight and that you love him or her. Check in frequently with your wife or girlfriend to tell her you love her too! Never underestimate the power of the little things.
Make a Family Date
Create a standing family date that you cannot break. Have a sit-down dinner every night or at least once a week. Plan a family activity, such as game night (break out old-school board games, take a trip to an activity center (and play together - no splitting up) or fire up the Wii or PlayStation), or plan some other outing that involves everyone.
Keep One Calendar
Include your children's sports practices and games, recitals, plays, and parent-teacher conferences on your work calendar so you see all your obligations at one glance.
Give Your Undivided Attention
When you are spending time with your family, really give them your full attention. Turn off the cell phone or Blackberry and step away from the email. It doesn't count if you're physically sitting next to them but your head and your heart are back at the office. They'll notice.