Super Bowl XLIII-winning head coach Mike Tomlin wrote a commentary called "Fatherhood Comes First, Then the Game" in USA Today for the Friday before the big game.
Maybe you heard it recently from the grandparents or other extended family: "My, how the children have grown!" Maybe you saw some old photos or home videos and were stunned. "Were they ever really that little?"
My brother-in-law Mark lost his job last week. Like any other weekday, he arrived at his office at 8:25 am, likely scanning his Blackberry on his walk across the parking lot to see what his busy schedule held for him. But instead of a day filled with meetings and customer calls, he was promptly ushered into a conference room, sat down by an HR rep, and summarily laid off. Thanks much, but we just don’t need you anymore.
There’s a common expression that we use all the time. It’s pretty harmless in itself, but as fathers we need to think differently with it. It’s the simple concept of spending time.
Cameron Stracher is a busy working dad. He's a law professor in New York who also does legal work, with a long commute to and from work every day. Several years ago, he found himself feeling "over-extended, over-committed and physically exhausted," and very out-of-touch with his family.
A recent survey by CareerBuilder confirms the challenge among working dads to navigate the demands of work and family life. According to the survey, 38% of working dads, if given the choice, would take a pay cut to spend more time with their kids. Nearly one in four working dads (24 percent) feel work is negatively impacting their relationship with their children. Forty-eight percent have missed a significant event in their child's life due to work at least once in the last year, and nearly one in five (18 percent) have missed four or more. Thirty-six percent of working dads say their company does not offer family-friendly work arrangements such as flexible schedules, telecommuting, job sharing and more.
One evening several months ago, my 9-year-old son Chance and I were heading up to his bedroom to do the tucking-in ritual, when we took a short detour to my study. It was just a few weeks after I had joined the National Center for Fathering, and my new business cards were on my desk. Chance saw them and asked if he could have one. I said, “Sure, Son,” and he picked one up.
For many dads, the challenging task of fathering is made even more difficult because we spend so much time traveling. If you're like me, there are times when your job demands that you be in Chicago tomorrow, and out on the west coast by next Tuesday. There's no getting around it.
Recently, Sue Shellenbarger, the work and family columnist for the Wall Street Journal, wrote about “Undercover Moms”—women who find themselves changing outfits on the run several times a day as they juggle their various roles. In her article, Shellenbarger included this statement: “It’s been a long time (read it: never) since I’ve seen a dad changing from a suit to soccer shorts in a parked car.”
Every month or so, we hear about someone else “retiring” to spend more time with his children. We applaud him and perhaps even hold him up as an example for all fathers. But in reality, these people are usually politicians, professional athletes or business CEOs. Not all of us are in a position to choose outright between work and family, but must somehow reconcile these often-opposing forces.