Balancing Life and Work

In a 2000 national survey developed by the Radcliffe Public Policy Center at Harvard, seventy percent of young men said they were willing to compromise on pay and promotions in order to spend more time with their families. On the surface of it, organizations seem to support family-oriented employees with several options that allow them to be a more active parent. However, the reality at the ground level is very different, as society still expects men to play the role of the provider rather than the caregiver. While bosses and co-workers are understanding of a woman’s need to rush home to pick up her kids from day care, men who ask for the same privileges are often met with raised eyebrows and disapproving bosses.

tips to maintain work-life balance
"Home Office" by David Martyn Hunt is licensed under CC BY 2.0

However, this has not deterred men from striving to achieve a healthy work-life balance, and perceptions in society are gradually changing for the better. If you feel you aren’t spending as much time as you’d like to with your family, here are some tips you can use.

  1. Define what you want to do
    Just as it is important to define your career goals, you must have a clear idea of what it is you want to achieve at home. Make a list of the things you’d like to do for your kids and wife, and be clear about the caregiving responsibilities you’d like to take on. Once you have your goals defined, it is easier for you to achieve them.
  2. Look at the bigger picture
    The usage of the word ‘balance’ isn’t very accurate. If you think that you can divide your waking hours perfectly between work and home, you aren’t being realistic and you’re bound to be disappointed. On some days, work will take priority while on other days you may be more involved with the household. The important thing is to ensure that in the long run, both are given due attention.
  3. Find out what family-friendly options your workplace offers
    Many workplaces offer work-from-home and flextime options that make it easier for you to make changes to your work routine when necessary. Other options provided include job sharing, part-time and a compressed work week of longer days swapped for a day off. Find out whether your workplace offers any such options and try making use of them to suit your requirements. In some cases you may find that the policies exist only on paper and are very difficult to make use of within your office culture. You might want to consider changing jobs and looking for a more family-friendly workplace if this is the case.
  4. Integrate work and family
    Taking the view that work hours must be dedicated to finishing work and non-work hours must be free from work-related interruptions is rather constricting, and may not work well for many people. Feel free to take official calls, schedule meetings and check email when you’re with family as long as you aren’t interrupting anything important at home. In the same vein, don’t feel guilty about talking to family or leaving the office for a couple of hours during your workday to meet family-related commitments. Instead of keeping separate calendars for office-related commitments and family-related commitments, put them all onto a single calendar so you can navigate them more easily.
  5. Feel empowered by your decision
    In spite of the strong desire to spend more time with family and the increased acceptance of men who wish to do so, men sometimes wonder if they’re doing the right thing. Society still tends to make men feel that their value is in providing for their family, and when they see friends and colleagues who are in high-paying, demanding roles they may wish they could take up similar positions. It is important to see value in playing the role of the caregiver and pay attention to how happy you’re making your wife and kids by being there for them. And while you may initially feel apprehensive about the alternate working style you adopt, chances are you will be admired by your colleagues for the confidence and independence you portray in making those decisions.
  6. Having a regular job doesn’t mean you can’t take your children to sports practice or share day to day experiences with them. With a change in perspective and working style, you can be a hands-on dad without affecting your career.

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