Dads and work: getting it into perspective
Once you become a father, you might start to feel the pressure of being a provider for your family. Being in work and doing well might seem even more important than it used to.
If you have a heavy workload, a long commute or not much choice about your hours, you can end up tired and stressed. There might even be less time for your family and yourself.
So it’s worth thinking about where work sits in your life.
Rewards of family time
Coming home from work can mean ending one shift and starting another, especially in the early days. This can be very demanding, but it can also be hugely rewarding. Time spent with your family – even little moments of joy with your child – can often put work pressures into perspective.
The best thing about being a dad is when you come home after a tough day at work. It all just comes into perspective. He says, ‘Can you read this book for me?’ and everything just returns to normal basically. It’s fantastic.
– Andre, father of two
Options for work-life balance
Some dads make some big changes to be there more for their families. They might change jobs to reduce their work hours, be closer to home or give up shift work for day work. Some become stay-at-home dads.
You might decide to set some clear boundaries around work, how much you think about work and when it’s time to switch from work mode to family mode.
Other dads look at ways to get more flexibility into the day. For example, you could meet with your employer about starting a bit earlier so you can leave a bit earlier. If you have a long commute, you could see whether you can work from home sometimes.
Changes like these can help you find time in the afternoon to play with your child or have dinner with your family.
Not all dads can do this, though. But don’t give up. It might help to know that some fathers who work long hours are actually more involved in their children’s activities and more supportive than fathers who work less.
It’s what you do with the time you have that really matters. For example, 15 minutes of play with your child while you’re paying complete attention to him is better than 30 minutes of play while you’re distracted by work calls, TV or something else.
You might also be able to boost your wellbeing by eating better or finding time for exercise – you could even take your baby with you in the pram while you walk or jog. Sometimes it just helps to be more realistic. For example, if you’re feeling bad about not being home for dinner every night, try to make it home for dinner on Friday nights and feel good about that.
My work comes home with me in terms of being on the phone regularly. I’ve got emails and lots of things to check on. I’ve got clients that call me at all hours. It’s really important sometimes to turn the bloody phone off, and focus on what’s going on in your world. Find out what you can do at home to help, and if you really have to check your phone again, do it an hour or two later.
– Bill, father of one
What you can do
- Ask other dads you know about how they balance work and family.
- Before your baby is born, find out about family-friendly policies at your workplace, and discuss flexible work options with your manager.
- Look into Dad and Partner Pay – two weeks of government-funded parental leave for eligible dads in the first year following birth or adoption.
- Decide with your partner about when might be a good time for you to take leave from work after baby arrives.
- On the way home from work, turn off the phone, turn up the stereo and use the time to de-stress so you come home ready to be dad.
- As your kids get older, tell them about your work – where it is, what you do, what happened to you today. You could call them from work, or take them in and show them around, if it’s safe.