Working Dads - Double duties
Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2008

Moms aren't the only ones struggling to balance their work life and personal life. More and more working fathers are taking on duties normally associated with moms, such as swapping a late-day meeting for a soccer game.

Just like working moms, dads must manage work responsibilities with family obligations on a daily basis. It's a delicate juggling act that takes years for some to master. And for many, the first step is realizing that working fathers face different challenges than working mothers.

"Being a parent is still largely considered a woman's job," explains Pam Ragland, owner of Aiming Higher Quantum Success Co., a personal and business consulting firm based in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. "Men who place a high priority on family often need to be thick-skinned about it. I always recommend keeping the goal in mind — happy, well-adjusted kids."

Ragland says men don't have the same role models women do, therefore, they need to forge their own way.

"Many of my male clients often tell me they feel like a 'pansy' if they end up doing things women traditionally do in support of the family, this even includes things like taking children to sports," she says. "I recommend they keep a journal to get out these feelings as they forge new ground. Many men resist this, but when they do it they consistently tell me it is one of the most useful tools I give them."

The second step is becoming more efficient with your time at work in order to have more quality time with your kids at home. For some working dads, that means adopting an in-the-moment attitude.

"Allow yourself— and this is key — to focus only on whatever you are doing during that time block," Ragland continues. "No worrying about kids when you are working no worrying about your work when you are with your kids."

Stay focused

Minimizing distractions will help keep you on task. This includes designating a set amount of time a day to check your e-mail and return phone calls, says Ragland.

"I call this the 'cost of interruptions' — they can really add up," she says. "Interruptions may be things like your e-mail dinging so you stop to check it, people calling, people stopping in, etc. If you get interrupted 20 times a day and it takes you just five minutes to get back to [or] remember what you were doing, that adds up to 8.3 hours per week."

Let's face it, all working dads want to be a respected employee in addition to a great father — and vice versa. But sometimes the pressure of being the best in every aspect of your life everyday causes even more stress, explains Debbie Mandel, a Lawrence, N.Y.-based stress-management specialist and talk radio show host.

"You are the same person Sunday as you are Monday," she says. "Working dads usually do less housework than their female counterparts and carve out more time to relax. The trend is to be more involved in family matters, even if a father can't be there physically."

Guilty as charged?

As any working parent can attest, there is a sense of guilt — even if it's just slight — in having to make family sacrifices for work and work sacrifices for the family. But some experts believe dads have it easier in that area.

"Dads get brownie points every time they take off work for the kids — it humanizes them and people view them as a nice, well-rounded guy," says Lisa Earle McLeod, author of "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear" (Jefferson Press, $22.95). "But when women take off work, people wonder if she's committed to her job."

In other words, yes it might be considered a double-standard, but men typically aren't looked down upon for carving time out of their day for their families. And, hey, it might even help your career.

"Being a great dad raises your stock with your company," she continues. "And if you're the guy who has to cut out of the meeting early to pick up the kids because your wife is on a business trip, don't feel bad about it. Every woman in the room is wishing she was married to you."