The ‘B’ word
The evolution of fathers from distant breadwinner to hands-on multitasker has meant that 21st-century dads need to find a way to better balance their lives.
It can feel like a bit of a tightrope: you want to do the best for your family and your employer (especially if you’re the one in charge); you want to sustain friendships and hobbies; you want, basically, to retain the identity that made you, you.
Balance, balance, balance. It’s not easy to master, some might say impossible, but here are five tips to help steer you towards that ever-elusive ‘B’ word.
Trying to combine your old and new life and finding that the days seem to have less hours in them? You’re not the only one. Unless you can get by on less sleep – despite being busier than you’ve ever been – you’ll be forced to simply let the bucket overflow; to dispense with some of your life. Sadly, this might mean losing touch with some people, even those who have been good friends. If Facebook ‘likes’ are all you can manage for a while, then so be it. Learn the art of saying no. You can’t do everything.
Hold yourself to promises you make to the family. Your children need to be able to trust what you say. If you promise them a trip to the zoo the next day, follow through with it. If you say you’ll be home at a certain time, stick to it, even leaving work 10 minutes earlier to combat traffic. If there’s no way out, make the call as early as you can; don’t tell your partner at around the time they’re expecting you that you’ll be another hour. More often than not, she’ll be desperate for help or a rest, or has made ‘me-time’ plans based on your expected arrival time. The applecart is easily toppled; do all you can to keep it upright.
Loving and looking after yourself can be hard when you’re stretched to the point where your own needs seem redundant, but ‘you’ time is imperative, especially in the life-changing first few months of your baby’s life. Eat well. Moderate the boozing (kids don’t care about hangovers). Watch a funny video each day. If you’ve always exercised, keep it up – it’s even more important now to stay active in mind and body. Get up early for a run or a ride; set aside an hour for a walk. Take a book to the park for half an hour. Go and have a quiet drink. Gather your thoughts often. Stagnation doesn’t bode well, mentally and physically.
Organisation at work.
Work smart, be efficient. Because you’re busy outside of work now you need to make each hour within your working day count. Socialising, networking and retaining your identity is all important, but you don’t want to be playing catch-up in the evening – and eating into all-important family time – because your morning was spent ensnared in the click-bait cycle, or co-analysing the weekend’s footy and cricket results with your neighbour. Making to-do lists and prioritising tasks is an effective way to wade through the workload; with each tick-off you’re mentally noting that you’re one step closer to the finish line.
Organisation at home.
Clearly define when family time is. That means putting the phone away during the ‘witching hour’. Put it on a charger in the furthest room away from the kitchen. Or leave it in the glovebox! On weekends, clearly define with your partner who gets to sleep in and who gets up with the kid(s). Place a calendar on the fridge and plan the week ahead. There’s always stuff on – especially once kids are school-aged. And although many of us use it as an ‘escape’ outlet, try to lessen the amount of toilet time on social media or playing Tetris on your phone. Remember what we said about the applecart…