Working Dad 101: A Handy Guide to Parenting
Fatherhood is a life-changing event. Here are some tips for the working dad from working-dads-in-the-know to help you navigate the choppy waters while helping you maintain your sanity.
With all due respect to the Peace Corps, parenting is arguably the toughest job you'll ever love. One of the biggest issues facing a new working dad is navigating the delicate balance between work responsibilities and taking an active role in being a dad.
After interviewing a handful of dads, one common factor stands out: Finding creative ways to carve out quality time with your children is a challenge. Keeping your children from getting lost in the shuffle of work and other day-to-day responsibilities can be a juggling act.
So as you're trying to sort out all the nuances of fatherhood, from answering "Is the tooth fairy real?" to coming to grips with the fact that your daughter has a date, here are some tips from some old hands on what every working dad needs to know.
- Put Down the Phone
We're all slaves to our gadgets, but tinkering on your phone cuts into valuable time with your kids. "Don't spend more time on your phone than with them," says Derek S. of Townsend, MA. Put the phone away and "get on the floor and play," says Bill C. from Sutton, MA.
- Plan to Not Plan
Working all day means some tasks need to wait for the weekend. So you set your itinerary for a Saturday and get up ready to conquer the day. "You may have a plan for what you want to do for that day, but your child may have other ideas," says Bill C. The lesson is that, every so often, the best of plans go up in smoke. Learn to be flexible, and when your plans go off the rails, improvise.
- Don't Stand on the Sidelines
Involve your kid in youth activities to expose them to as many opportunities as possible. This will allow them to discover a sport or a hobby that they love. And it gives you another opportunity to spend time with them. Terry E. of Westford, MA, loves baseball, and so do his 8- and 12-year-old boys.
During the spring and summer months, he spends time most nights after work helping them practice hitting and pitching. "They love it. And I think that is why they have done so well in their younger years playing ball," he says. Terry even went so far as to change his work schedule to get home earlier at night to practice with them.
- Keep Your Word
It's not enough to urge your child to pursue youth activities. When she has a game on a weeknight, she wants you there. So you'd better be there. And be there on time. "That really matters to them. A lot," says Derek S. There's likely nothing at work that can't wait until the next day. "Don't miss your kid's events unless completely necessary," says Jason M. from Nashua, NH.
- Coach 'Em Up
Another way to guarantee being involved with your kids is to sign up to coach their teams. The time spent together will be worth it. Terry E. says, "I'm so happy to have been able to coach both boys since T-ball." He adds that it "made for a lot of white-knuckle rides home through traffic" but that the quality time was invaluable.
- Save the Best for Last
Spend time with your kids every night before they go to bed, even if it's just for a few minutes. Read them a book or just talk. Find out what's going on in their lives. What are their hopes and dreams? Their fears and anxieties? It's your job to teach your children, but quite often, you learn something, too.
Are you a proud poppa with some wisdom to bestow? Tell us about it in the comments! And read on to Dads Deserve Respect Too, an interview with a man working to erase dads' bad rap "one blog post at a time."
Steven Auger is a freelance writer residing just north of Boston, Massachusetts. As relatively new parents, he and his wife, Lauren, quickly learned that parenthood is short on sleep (and sometimes patience), but diapers, toothless smiles and lots of love are plentiful.
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