Three Things All Working Fathers Should Know
Being a working father is a role that comes with its own set of joys, responsibilities and difficulties. The pressure to enjoy and excel in their family life and professional career is not just challenging on a practical level – it can take a toll on a fathers’ mental health. In a survey conducted by Ipsos, 70% of men reported increased stress levels within 12 months of becoming fathers.
So what can working fathers do to make this balancing act less stressful and more rewarding? At Moments that Matter, we help fathers working at Fortune 500 companies find answers and strategies through workshops and coaching sessions. Here are three insights that resonate with busy, high-achieving dads.
1. Quality time counts more than quantity
One of the top struggles of working parents is feeling that the time spent with their kids isn’t enough. Yet studies have found that how we spend our family time matters more to children’s development than how much.
Remember, young kids have an abstract concept of time. And with children of any age, what they need most from parents is connection – which is something that can be built in minutes if the circumstances are right.
A strategy that can help you be more present and engaged in the limited time you do spend with your child(ren) is to build in transition times between work mode and family mode.
Let’s face it, we expect to switch into parent mode on-demand, but in reality it takes a while for our work stress to dissipate. So why not give ourselves that time? Having a habitual ritual, like taking a walk or doing a 5-minute breathing exercise on the way home, can help warm you up for better quality time.
2. Your role (and your challenges) are not secondary by nature
The assumption that fathers fulfill a supporting role is still widespread, and it leads to all sorts of challenges for men. From being judged by colleagues and managers for taking time off for parenting duties, to having less people checking in on them and offering support.
But the idea that women are instinctively built to be the default parent, and that fathers should naturally take a backseat is outdated. Research shows that both men and women are biologically primed to parent. Men’s brains get rewired and their hormones shift when they become fathers.
Why is it important for fathers to know this? Firstly, it’s empowering. It means that all parents, male or female, can decide what parenting role they want to play. It gives men confidence that they can be capable, competent and involved parents if they wish to be.
Putting fathers and mothers on a more equal standing also makes men’s challenges just as worthy of support as women’s – whether that’s formal support resources like parental leave policies, or casual check-in calls from friends and family.
3. To make working fatherhood work, uncomfortable conversations are unavoidable
Becoming a father shifts everything, and as kids grow, the changes don’t stop coming. Both at home and at work, familiar routines, dynamics and expectations need to be renegotiated…constantly!
One option is to wait for things to fall into place. But that rarely works the way we expect it to, or at the pace we would like it to. So to speed up the process of readjustment (and to make it much smoother) the safe but uncomfortable way forward is to talk things out.
The solution to many problems often lies at the other side of a tough conversation. Whether you want to set new boundaries at work to accommodate your new parenting duties, tell your partner you need to create space for self-care, or ask for support – ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen if I start this conversation? And what is the cost of not having it?
In our sessions, one strategy we share to make tough conversations a bit less daunting is to start by scheduling a time for it. Doing this as a first step doesn’t only break the ice, it also allows both parties to mentally prepare for it and find a time and place that facilitates a more empathetic dialogue.
One thing is certain: becoming a working dad is not a one-off transition, it’s a never-ending change curve. The good thing is, as with any job, you learn as you go. And the more thought you put into preparing yourself with the right tools and strategies, the faster you’ll find your flow.
Ready to help working parents in your team feel understood and supported? Find out more about our employee support sessions and coaching programmes by scheduling a discovery call with us today.