Men and Work-Home Balance

by Rion Kweller, Ph.D.

Loving father helping his son cut vegetablesMuch has been written about women who struggle with returning to the work place after having children. Women often feel guilty about going to work while leaving their child in daycare or other caregivers. They feel torn. They either have to work or want to work, but miss the daylong routine of care, play, feeding and bonding that happens through constant interaction with their children.

Working mothers can have wonderful warm, close, loving, and caring relationships with their children. But when that time is limited to before and after work, with commute times added into the mix of pick-up from sitter or daycare, and actual time spent together before bedtime, quality time is often squeezed. The stakes are high for trying to pack as much enjoyable, educational, and loving time into too few hours. It is not just a dilemma; it is an on-going ache for many women.

Do men experience the same kind of feelings? Traditional male roles expect the man to be the primary family wage earner. He is expected to be focused on career, advancement, and to do what is necessary to achieve those goals. Child rearing and childcare have traditionally been the wife’s job, while dads fix things and discipline children when necessary.

So much has changed. What was previously clear in terms of expectations for men has now become fuzzy. There are varied combinations of men who work more hours, and those who bring home more money. More fundamentally, there are questions about what a man is supposed to feel about his job and family. Each man must define what role is right for him.

Many men have not only come to accept non-traditional family responsibilities, but they embrace them. What happens when the pull of a career-enhancing meeting is balanced against a child’s soccer game or dance recital? What happens when an avalanche of work makes it difficult to get home to eat dinner with the family, or to cook the dinner itself when that is the accepted division of labor? When challenges threaten the new order there can be conflict, angst, and difficult trade-offs to make.

Surviving and flourishing despite stressful choices and situations involves:

Flexibility. Be open to change and recognize that something has to give when there are limited hours in the day.

Creativity. Think of what works best for your situation. It doesn’t hurt to try something new.

Commitment. If family is the priority then act consistently with that.

Passion. Defend the values you hold dear. No one else will stand up for the things that are most important to you.

Dads, like moms have a delicate balancing act to negotiate. While some men (and women) seem to have it all, that situation is not realistic for the majority of working parents. Know your heart and communicate those feelings to those around you.

About the Author:
Dr. Kweller is an Executive Coach and Licensed Psychologist in Williamsville, NY. His websites are www.bhnet.org and www.iplanforsuccess.com. To reach Dr. Kweller call 716 634-1184 or e-mail him at rion@iplanforsuccess.com.