The balancing act between achieving advancement at work (in order to provide for our families) and having quality time to spend with our families is a constant struggle facing the modern working parent. Now more than ever, if we want to get ahead, it seems like we have to be completely dedicated to our jobs. Add advancements in technology and the increasingly global economy, and what once was a 9-to-5 commitment is creeping closer and closer to 24/7.
There are many reasons working parents are finding it so hard to leave space in their career aspirations for family time. The advent of the “cloud” and the smartphone has given us the ability to work from practically anywhere at any time, which has infringed on the physical space that used to separate the workplace from the home. It isn't always enough to do good work for 40-hours each week — our increasingly inter-connected, hyper-available society has created additional pressure to be on-call at all hours.
We Set A Powerful Example
Yet, the most important thing we can do for our children is to be present in their lives. In the introduction to my book, The 10 KIDmandments, I assert that learning and teaching should be the number-one objective and responsibility of any parent. This is because our words and actions have a tremendous impact on our children, and the example we set becomes the template for the way they will grow up to live their lives.
Our work, and our attitude towards it, is an important part of this example. After all, our kids will have jobs of their own some day, and teaching them to have a healthy attitude towards work is vital to their future happiness and fulfillment. If we are completely unhappy in our job, or if it keeps us from spending time with our kids, what kind of example are we setting? This is why achieving a good balance between time spent at work and time spent at home is important for our own health and our kid's health as well.
Finding the Right Balance
A TIME Magazine article that highlights CEO Dads and their insights on making time to be present in their kid's lives offers some great tips on how to create a healthy balance. Whether these ideas are new to us, or we've used a similar idea to keep our relationships strong at home, I think it's great that major CEOs who are also fathers are speaking out about their efforts to find balance. For the last 50+ years, working mothers have been discussing ways to both work and raise children, and women often face a more difficult struggle to do so. However, I hope that fathers taking part in this exploration brings more attention to the roles that both parents play in raising happy and healthy kids.
I particularly enjoy the philosophy that Intuit CEO Brad Smith has developed in regard to making sure he doesn't miss the important moments in his kid's lives because of work. Smith makes a distinction between “rubber” and “crystal” moments. A “rubber” moment can be bounced back from, like missing one of many soccer games or dance recitals. “Crystal” moments, however, should never be missed. They include things like graduations or the birth of a child. By making a distinction like this, Smith allows himself to get his work done without guilt and saves his opportunities for the big moments where his presence really matters.
Several of the CEOs profiled by TIME, including Mattel's Sid Mathur, say that they set aside a block of time every week to spend quality time with their kids. For Mathur, this involves Sunday mornings spent cooking lemon ricotta pancakes and listening to classical music with his daughter. He also sets aside every-other Thursday for “camping night” — building forts in the living room. Reminds me of fun times spent with my daughters when they were young!
Keeping Our Roles Straight
Although The 10 KIDmandments is a book about how to be the best parents we can be, I think several of the major themes are helpful in our approach to our work as well. For instance, KIDmandment 2, Life's Paths, addresses the roles we play in life to achieve “success.” I think it's important to know that these roles are parts of who we are, but they don't define us completely.
The roles we play at work, whether they are “CEO,” “project director,” or “marketing manager,” are not the roles we play at home, and our success or failure in those roles doesn't have to impact our children. At home, our role is “parent,” and that role is one of the most important we will ever play in our lives. Understanding this helps me play the appropriate role for each situation I am in, and prevent frustrations at work from following me home at the end of the day.
KIDmandment 3 is Positive Mental Attitude, and it relates to the greatest gift our Creator has given us, which is the ability to choose our thoughts. If we are able to maintain our positivity and adjust our attitude to help us achieve everything that we need to achieve, we can be our best selves both at work and at home. The power of a positive mental attitude is incredible, and when we embrace it our children learn to embrace it as well.
It may not always be possible to create the ideal balance between work and home, but a positive attitude can help immensely. By staying positive and proactive, we can help ourselves achieve our best in both settings and provide a great example for our children of what it means to be both a hard worker and a loving, engaged parent.
How do you keep job stress from impacting your relationship with your kids? Join the conversation by tweeting @JeffOddo!