There is no higher calling in this world than fatherhood. Being there for your children day in and day out, changing diapers, solving problems, playing…every single facet of the job is important. However, in our modern society it has become increasingly difficult to focus just on your family. Almost every father is asking the same question, how can I find balance in life as a great dad, friend, and employee all at the same time?
In a perfect world, that is where you would get to be all of the time. However, like everyone, you have other responsibilities that require your attention. There's work, which some would argue is equally important as family. And if your wife is on maternity leave, work might start to play a larger role in your mind.
And then, there is your social life. It’s really difficult to have a social life and see friends when you have to work all the time, both at your job and as a father at home.
So that is the challenge facing the modern father. How do you focus on family, work, and friends, and still be able to get enough sleep? Well, as much as it seems like it's next to impossible to do it all. It takes some effort, and it's not always easy, but it can be done. You just need to be good at multitasking to get the right balance.
A Balancing Act
What follows below are honest opinions as to how to best balance out your life between family, friends, and your job. While you may feel that you can do it all, it is important to be realistic. To be able to succeed in all facets of your life, you need to make some small concessions. That will allow you to devote more time to each, without neglecting any of your responsibilities.
All Work and No Play Makes Your Family Miss You!
Out of the big four components that make up your life (Work, Friends, Kids, and Wife), work has to be the least important. Let’s be honest, you don’t live at work, do you?
Now I know that you career folks probably just spit out your drink, but wipe off your screen and listen up for a bit. While a job is hugely important for some obvious reasons (money is nice, we all like it a lot), it is also the largest chunk of time spent away from your family and friends.
However, you do need to make sure that you put in your time at work. However, if you can shift your schedule around to accommodate a social life better, you should.
Listed below are some strategies that you can use that make sure that you stay productive at work, without making it take over the other aspects of your life. If you're lucky, some of your social life will INVOLVE people from work, thus making your balancing act that much simpler. While you might not be able to use them exactly as they are written, you should be able to apply them to your life with just a few tweaks.
To best alleviate the drain on your family, try to arrive extra early. If you are a salaried employee with a set amount of work to do in a day, try to arrive as early as possible. That way you can get your work started and be able to leave on time. This will work out especially well if you can get to work before your family is even awake. Then they won’t even miss you!
Leave On Time
There is a stigma in our country that you need to put in overtime to make a living. This should not be your mantra if you wish to balance out your life. If you are arriving early, it is with the express intent of leaving on time! Over time every once in awhile is fine, but don't make a habit of it.
Switch Up Your Schedule
If you are an hourly employee, you might be thinking that all of these ideas are all well and good for someone who is salaried, but they won’t work for you. Unfortunately, you’re right. Fortunately, however, you can still try to alter your schedule to find the time that works best for you.
For instance, if you have to drive your kids to school, try to get a schedule that will allow that, all while giving you the time you need to get to work and not feel rushed. It might take a while longer, since you can only switch to a different shift when a spot opens up, but try and get yourself onto a shift that best fits your family’s needs.
Leave Work at Work
For some people, this is especially hard to do. You have a rough day, your boss was all over you, your coworkers were a pain, or maybe you didn’t get that promotion you wanted. You know how much of that is your family’s problem?
None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. What they want from you when you get home is not someone who has to work at home or complain about their day. They want a present father and husband. Someone who braids hair, plays with dolls, builds stuff, and gives the best-darned piggy back rides around. You need to be with your family and friends mentally and physically.
Here are some helpful tips to accomplish keeping your job from encroaching on your social or family time:
- Take the Long Way Home – De-stress with a little driving music and the wind in your hair.
- Order Out – Why come home and have to help with dinner or wait for it to be done? Your wife will thank you anyways if you pick something up every once in awhile.
- Leave Your Computer/Paperwork – Again, this will work sometimes. But if you have a work laptop like I do, leave it there on some nights. Yeah, that work needs to get done, but you won't tune your family out if you're unable to do it.
- Make Friends with People at Work – If you have a good friend at work, it gives you an outlet for all of your pent up frustrations, cares, and woes so that when you get home, and you no longer will feel the need to vent.
Friends Are the Family You Choose. So Make Time For Them!
Where would we be without our friends? We share such great memories, generally when we're all a bit younger and fit, and they just get you. But now, you've got a wife and a kid or two, so you have to kiss those friends goodbye, right? Wrong! You can keep those friendships alive, though they will have to evolve just as you have over the years. Here are some helpful tips to keep up with your old pals and still have time with your family:
Involve Them With Your Family
Don’t be greedy with your friends. Introduce them to your wife and make them her friends, too. That makes it easy to see them since they are not just yours or hers, but rather your family's friends. If you want to spend more time with your social circle, acquaint them with the wife and kids.
Get Involved With Their Family
Nothing will make it easier to see your friends than if your wife and kids are friends with them as well. It will work out even better if they have a family of their own. If that is the case, you can plan fun family outings, like fishing or camping, where everyone gets to hang out with their friends. The kids can play together, the wives can talk, and you and your pals can be off hanging out. If you choose to try fishing, you can hang out and bring home dinner!
Set Aside Time For Them
However, while involving your pals with your family is great for like 99% of the time, there is that 1% where it just feels nice to relive the old days. Set aside some time to be family free and you won’t regret it. You’ll come back feeling more relaxed and full of energy that you can then put towards your family.
Understand That Everyone Has A Busy Life
So you've grown up and had a few kids and your life is ridiculously busy. You finally get some free time and call an old friend, and they can't make it!? Don't they understand that this is your only chance to see them!?
Odds are, yeah, they do. However, they grew up too, and they have a busy life as well. The best kind of friend is an understanding one, one that gets that you can’t hang all of the time anymore. You need to give them that same courtesy.
A Father’s True Calling: How To Get More Quality Time With Your Family
If you are like me, then your family is the most important facet in your life. As such, you want to spend the maximum amount of time with them that you possibly can. However, the family is a complex beast, and can't be taken as a whole. Keeping this in mind, you should try and break up your family time into three separate categories, and each category should garner a different amount of attention and utilize various activities to best suit their needs.
This is the time that you spend with everyone, the wife, the kids, and you, the dear old dad. Most of the time, this is going to be spent at your house, on vacation, or shopping (shudder), but that doesn't mean that it can't be high-quality, fun, and engaging! Try some of the different strategies below and even if you're shopping for clothes you won't feel bored.
- Cookout – An excellent way to see your friends from the past, your work, and spend time with your family. Invite everyone over for a cookout while you man the grill. Guaranteed great time!
- Game Night – Whether you choose to play board games, video games, or games you make up, take the time to PLAY with your kids and wife.
- Movie Night – Sometimes you can’t muster up the energy to play a game, so sit down and snuggle instead. Give each family member a turn and let the good times (and the credits) roll!
- Department Store Scavenger Hunt – A personal favorite, instead of sitting there while your wife looks for pants, take the kids for a walk and have them look for different items. No need to get fancy and have a list, just make it up and get them moving.
No matter what gender of child you have, they need to spend quality time with both of their parents alone. It shows that you care about them and will give them real tangible memories to look back on when you’re gone. However, you should even go a step further and make time to (if you have more than one) take each kid out individually. Believe me, the look of adoration you’ll get when you ask them to come with you to the hardware store, hiking, or fishing will be well worth it.
Before I got married, my then fiancée and I went and did premarital meetings with the minister who would marry us. While it wasn’t a requirement for her to do the ceremony, I sure am glad that we went, because she gave me some of the best advice that I have ever received. She told us, the greatest gift you can give your children is your relationship.
What she was saying was, that if we wanted our future children to have a happy and loving home, we had to be happy and loving in our relationship. Make sure that you take the time to work on showing your love for her. All that you have as a family is because the two of you fell in love. Make sure she doesn’t forget it!
Asking About Her Day – Yeah, you might have a million things going through your head, and you just want to sit down and watch some TV or take a nap. But your wife needs you to listen to her. Take the time and ask, and actually look and she'll appreciate it more than you can imagine.
Making Her Presents – Do you notice how I didn’t say buying? Take the time to make things for her to show that you’re thinking about her all the time. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. A note, a drawing, or a card will all do the trick quite nicely.
Taking The Kids When She is Stressed – If you are any kind of a husband, you should be able to read your wife’s mood when you arrive home from work. If she seems to need it, offer to take the kids to the park so she can have some peace and quiet.
Touching Her – I’ll say this nice and loud for those of you in the back… NOT THAT WAY! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE GUTTER! Sorry…anyways, what I mean is, when you’re sitting on the couch together, rub her feet. Hold her hand out in public. Give her a back rub when she is stressed out. Play with her hair. All of these are straightforward and quick ways to show your wife you're still crazy about her.
Take Her Out On A Date – Even though the two of you are way past the dating stage of your relationship, you should still make time to take her out just the two of you. Get a sitter and take her to her favorite restaurant. Make it fun and show her you care.
BEING PRESENT – LISTEN TO HER, LISTEN TO HER, LISTEN TO HER. Take the time to be there for her so that she knows you are actually thinking about her. Your wife and your kids will thank you in the long run.
How to Balance – To Each Their Own
So there it is, some great tips to help you balance out your life. You might, however, have a different balance in your life. Maybe work is your biggest focus right now, at least until you get that big promotion, and then you’ll shift it towards your family. Just make sure that you take the time to be with your family, for, as but I will leave you with some words of wisdom from Forest Witcraft so famously said:
One hundred years from now,
It won’t matter,
What kind of car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much money I had in the bank,
Nor what my clothes looked like
The world may be a little better,
Because I was important,
In the life of a child.