Work-Life Balance Isn’t Just for Moms Anymore

PHOTO: Finding work-life balance is a challenge not only for moms but also for dads.Courtesy Mark Trent
Finding work-life balance is a challenge not only for moms but also for dads.

The work-life balance conversation has amped up in recent years. While women still handle the bulk of childcare and housework, the gap between the genders has shrunk over time as men are pitching in more. However, they sometimes find themselves left out of the work-life balance discussion. “It’s still something we expect women to struggle with more than men,” says Torie Henderson, a life coach who specializes in helping parents. “But the reality is, today men often feel that they’re being pulled in different directions at work and at home.”

The result, Henderson says, is an inner struggle for many guys who end up feeling as though they're never doing enough — which sets off a cycle of constant frustration.

The good news, according to Henderson, is that a few simple tweaks can make things right. Here are some of her tips for how dads can achieve work-life balance without turning their lives upside down:

  • It's an issue women have faced for years, but now many men are having an inner struggle to strike the right work-life balance.
  • Men need to support each other as they attempt to figure out the best way to juggle work and home responsibilities.
  • Learning when to say "yes" and when to say "no" are crucial to finding that balance.
  • Don't underestimate the value of planning and prioritizing.

Support Each Other. Henderson says men are generally expected to show up to work and leave the family life behind. But the first step toward better balance is for men to have each other’s backs when it comes to work-life issues. “When a man says, ‘I have to go home [early] and pick up my kid,’ don’t say, ‘Oh, must be nice to leave at 5,’” says Henderson. “When we do that, we're really jealous and are fueling a fire that we shouldn’t be fueling. Stop joining in the judgment.”

Plan Things Out. With cloud technology, it’s easy to share a calendar with a spouse, so you can both be on the same [virtual] page at all times. Take things a step further by taking a night to meet with your spouse and plan the week ahead. “Try and make it fun,” says Henderson. “Pour a glass of wine and talk over the details of your week, but don’t get bogged down by logistics. Also discuss what's working and what's not working. We want to make sure we're still staying connected with our values and dreams.”

Just Say No. With technology making everyone reachable 24-7, it’s especially important to set boundaries. Whether it’s a few minutes a day or one hour per week, Henderson recommends blocking off regular periods when the phone is turned off and the focus is strictly on what they want to do — that could mean anything from catching up with friends and family, watching TV, or taking up a hobby. “Men are starving for their own attention,” she says. “Workaholism is a real addiction, and to cure it you have to set boundaries.”

Figure Out Your Priorities. In the end, achieving work-life balance depends on knowing what you love to do — and then taking the steps to make that happen. With a little planning, Henderson says it’s possible to do things such as spending quality time your wife and kids, watching the NBA Finals with a buddy, and catching your favorite TV show. "A lot of things change when you become a dad," she says. "What do you miss? It's about checking in with what do you really, really want."