Positive Path Recommended Reading

Taking Time to Father
By Michael Grose

It is a sign of the times that a number of high-profile men have terminated or interrupted their careers to spend more time with their families. 

The former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Tim Fischer, resigned to spend time with his wife and kids. Tim, the politician famous for his Akubra hat and open honesty, walked away from the deputy leadership just as he reached the high point of his political career. 

Geoff Marsh, the Australian cricket coach, found leaving his children while he accompanied the team on a tour of Sri Lanka so difficult, he didn't complete the tour. He turned his back on what he described as 'the best job in the world' and a lucrative salary, to spend more time with his three children. 

Former Australian West Coast Eagles Football Club coach Mick Malthouse is another man who made an unwanted career change citing family reasons. Counting the cost of a time-consuming job he remarked in an interview that he was the absent figure in the family photos celebrating children's first communions and other important events that adorn the walls of the Malthouse residence. 

These three men held positions where there was little opportunity to seek a balance. It was all career work or nothing in each case. 

These high profile figures are not in a minority group when it comes to wanting more family time. According to a poll commissioned by Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper, 40% of Australian fathers believed that they didn't spend enough time with their children. This compared with 21 per cent of women who believed they didn't spend enough time with their children. 

According to Professor Graeme Russell, one of Australia's authorities on work & family issues, fathers under 35 are those who struggle most with the work & family balancing act. They usually have young children who demand their attention, but many are in the career or business-building phases and they are caught between two competing demands. It is men rather than women who are now driving the work & family debate as they look for solutions to their balancing dilemmas.

Recently during a workplace seminar that I conducted, nearly half the fathers present admitted that they had spent part of the previous weekend at work. This was normal practice for their company, and that didn't include the time they spent at home attending to company matters. I suspect this pattern is repeated in workplaces throughout Australia. 

It may be unrealistic to expect men to abandon their jobs, or severely wind back working hours for the sake of their families. Pure economic reality doesn't give many men that luxury. However, by making small changes to work schedules it is possible to have a significant impact on parenting and improve a man's sense of satisfaction as a father. 

Some small changes fathers can consider that are high on impact include: 

1. Adjusting work schedules to allow you to be home early a couple of days a week to pick kids up from school or just to be present at mealtimes. One busy father of two pre school children starts work at seven two days a week so that he can be home by four o'clock and be involved in this hectic part of the day. 

2. Becoming a reading dad at school or a fruit dad at pre-school on a regular basis. Children love it when their dads are involved in these aspects of their world. It is by doing the seemingly mundane things such as picking kids up from school or pre-school or attending a parent-teacher interview that you get an insight into their lives. Don't wait for a second hand account from your partner. 

3. Placing important children's events and activities in your diary and plan your work around them. I have missed some of my children's special school events including a father's night because I was too preoccupied to place them in my diary. 

4. Establishing a routine, such as reading a story before bed that brings you close to your child. Kids generally look forward to special times with their fathers and often associate their fathers with shared pleasant activities. 

Fathers who feel frustrated with heavy workloads, and lack of time to spend with children, can still share the enterprise of child-rearing. You do not have to become involved in the minutiae of your child's life to be an effective dad. You do however need to be present to gain an understanding of the world that your child inhabits and to create some lasting memories for both you and your child.

About the author: Michael Grose is a parenting and work-life balance specialist who always makes good sense. Michael helps parents raise happy, confident kids and resilient young people, through his parenting courses, seminars, keynote presentations, books and articles. Visit his website at www.parentingideas.com.au


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