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How Can Overworked Dads Find More Time for Family?

Working dad walking with his sonIs work keeping dads from their other very important job: Being a parent? 

Dads everywhere (Woody Allen aside) got the opportunity to spend quality time with their kids this past Father’s Day, though it appears this kind of “family time” may becoming more the exception than the rule. As it turns out, two in five working dads (43 percent) who have had a child in the last three years reported they didn’t take any paternity leave, according to CareerBuilder’s annual Father’s Day survey, conducted among 729 full-time working fathers with children 18 and under.

Even for those working dads who were able to take some, but not the full, allotted time off, 47 percent said they felt pressured by work to come back early, and 59 percent ended up taking only a week or less.

So, why are we seeing less balance for men between working life and life as a father? It appears that, across various industries, a still-struggling economy and the stress of prolonged economic certainty post-recession is causing many working dads to experience more work–and less time for father/child fishing excursions or trips to the ice cream shop.

As a result, decisions that involve supporting the family financially versus emotionally are often difficult to resolve:

  • Bringing work home: More than one-third of working dads (36 percent) said they bring home work from the office, up from 27 percent in 2008.
  • Likelihood of being a stay-at-home dad: Thirty-five percent of working dads said if their spouse or partner made enough money to support the family, they would consider trading their careers for a role as a stay-at-home dad (down from 37 percent in 2008).
  • Willingness to take a pay cut – While working dads want to spend more time with their families, the number of dads willing to take a pay cut to do so has dropped since the recession. Thirty-three percent of working dads reported they would take a pay cut if it meant they have more quality time at home, down from 37 percent in 2008.

Alex Green, general counsel for CareerBuilder and father of three, understands the need for work/family balance firsthand:

“For many households, the recession has affected family life as much as personal finances. Many families need dual incomes, and post-recession work environments often entail longer longer hours. Fortunately, we see more dads taking advantange of flexible work arrangements to try to make up the difference and have more quality time with their families.”

Twenty-two percent of fathers say their work has negatively affected relationships with their children, according to the survey, and 26 percent said work negatively affected relationships with their significant others. To help achieve a better work-life balance (and more sanity), Green recommends the following for working dads:

  • Talk about it.  Remember that communication is a two-way street. Besides just listening to what is going on at home, talk about what is going on in your office, so everyone understands why you are away or have to do some work when you are home.
  • Scheduling is key to success.  Add every family member’s schedule to one master calendar so there are no surprises. Also, save vacation days for important events and talk to your supervisor about flexible work arrangements.
  • Establish a “no work” zone.  Put down your Blackberry and avoid checking emails from the time you arrive home until after your children have gone to sleep.
  • Consider flexible work arrangements.  More companies are offering telecommuting options, flexible hours, condensed work weeks and other arrangements. Approach your boss with a game plan of how the new arrangement would work and how it will ultimately benefit the organization.
  • It is ok to say no!  In addition to actual work, activities associated with your job can sometimes take a toll on your free time. Determine what additional activities you can turn down and which are necessary so that you can free up more of your time outside the office.

What’s worked for you?

Working dads out there, do you have a solution that’s helped you better balance between the office and the family? Let us know.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
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