People talk a lot about how working moms are affected by having children, but I rarely hear the conversation turn toward how working dads' lives are changed.
My life was dramatically altered when my wife and I started having kids, and I don't think I'm alone in that.
I believe that it's time we all start talking about this issue, so for all those new dads trying to balance work and family life, this one's for you.
The New Family Man
When I first became a father in 2000, I was a mere 20 years old. I was excited and scared and curious, all at the same time. I didn't really understand my new role as a dad, or my role as a "family man."
It took nearly 10 years for me to get into the groove of what I was supposed to do. I had to put away the video games (not completely, of course - let's not get crazy), wake up earlier and go to bed later, help my wife with more cleaning than I used to, and, most importantly, set time aside to have fun with my wife.
Being a father is a full-time job, but being a husband or partner is just as important. Wearing your different "hats" at different times can be difficult at first, but it's all about striking a balance.
Share the Load
With great power comes great responsibility. I get it, you're not a super hero, but you kind of need to be. With all the talk of modern women trying to balance work and family, the fact that men should be deeply involved in family life is often overlooked.
The modern man has just as many balls in the air as the modern women, and we should be performing our juggling act together, helping each other handle the influx of new duties.
When it comes to children, especially newborns, try to go the extra mile. For example, I try to get up at night every time my wife does, at least until there's a rhythm between us.
She needs to know that I'm going to be there for her and the baby, even if I'm not physically doing something. Simply being there to talk to her makes things run more smoothly. Never underestimate the value of watching TV with your wife at 3 a.m.
Finding Balance Don't Be Afraid to Make Changes
After you find out that your first baby is coming and you finish processing all the emotions that come with that news, it's good to step back and evaluate your involvement at work.
If you can step back a little and downgrade your involvement in committees or extra projects when the baby comes, do it! Take full advantage of every opportunity to spend more time watching your little poop machine grow.
Of course, every job has a different level of flexibility, but no matter how fixed your work commitments are, you absolutely must find a healthy balance between work and family.
No commitment in your life (aside from the one to your wife or partner) can match the one to your children. That said, there may still be times when work is not flexible and your family is, so use your best judgment. But remember, your family needs to know that they come first.
If you find yourself struggling to balance things, find something you can cut out that doesn't involve your kids. Keeping your extracurricular activities is a great idea if you need time for yourself, but don't miss out on watching your kids grow. They only do it once.
Working vs. Homemaking
Since balancing work and family is so important and so difficult, I definitely recommend one parent staying at home with the kids if that's a financially viable option. However, for many of us, it's just not. Nowadays, the amount of money required to keep a home running can be significant, and it often takes two adults working to support a family.
It's also important to note that if you are able to discuss who should stay home with the kids, don't assume it should fall to the mother. There are a lot of factors to take into account, including career goals, incomes, your individual interest in actually staying home, and many more.
But don't fall into the archaic line of thought that the woman belongs in the home. Your wife will not appreciate that - and you likely won't appreciate her reaction!
The factors to consider when deciding if both parents should work go beyond you and your partner. Your children will be influenced by different values from childcare providers, have less interaction with you, and can ultimately be less in-tune with the family's needs.
These aren't all terrible things; they're simply issues to take into account.
Becoming a father can be a scary step in life, and a huge leap to adulthood for those of us who were still acting like kids before real kids entered the picture. The new responsibilities can feel overwhelming, but you can do this.
Be a real man who wears a suit and changes diapers! Love your wife or partner and extend that love to your kids; they'll appreciate it. Support each other, and you'll figure out how to balance everything without missing out on the important things in life.
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