Despite the pressures of the pandemic now easing, many working dads are still struggling to juggle work and childcare. Here, Amanda Augustine, careers expert for TopCV, shares some steps that those with school-aged children can take to ease that balancing act:
Propose a more flexible work schedule to your manager. This could include having the freedom to rearrange your schedule so you can attend school functions without facing repercussions, to adjusting the start and end time of your working hours, to working from home more regularly.
Prepare for this conversation by reviewing your employee handbook to confirm if there is a policy — or non-policy — in place that supports your request and documenting your recent accomplishments so you can refer to them as you make your case. If you already work from home on occasion, be prepared to note how you’ve continued to be a productive member of the team, regardless of your location or work schedule.
Instead of simply telling your team you’ll be ‘offline for the afternoon’, explain that you’ll be ‘popping out at 2pm for two hours to attend a meeting with my child’s teacher and will be back online to catch up with emails by 5pm.’ When you explain why you’ll be gone and when you intend to return, it will help your co-workers to understand your situation and appreciate your commitment to your job and family life.
This is especially important if you regularly work remotely. In addition to giving your team advanced notice, reinforce this information by blocking off the time in your calendar when you won’t be available and changing your status on Slack to set expectations as to when people should expect to hear back from you.
Your tribe should include other working parents who can relate to your ‘juggle struggle’ and offer a sympathetic ear, as well as nearby family members and stay-at-home parents in your neighbourhood or your children’s class who can offer back-up childcare when you find yourself in a pinch.
If you and a fellow working dad live near one another and have children attending the same school, consider working out an arrangement to divvy up some of the responsibilities. For example, you could take turns carpooling the children to and from their afterschool activities and hosting playdates so the other can focus on their work.
Instead of having to nag your children to do their homework, establish a free period each night when the whole family has private study so you can catch up on some work whilst your kids complete their homework. Younger children can use this quiet time to read a book, play with a few special toys that are reserved for this occasion, or enjoy a little screen time with headphones. If there’s another adult in the house, you can take turns each night helping the kids with their studies.
To help the family get into the habit, gather everyone around a common area, such as the kitchen or dining room, and set a timer for 60 minutes of private study. When the timer goes off, everyone is free to enjoy the rest of their evening. Your kids may be resistant at first, but they’ll quickly adjust to this new routine.
Avoid the working-dad guilt and be strategic about how you volunteer to help at your children’s school. You won’t be able to participate in every bake sale and book fair, but you can take one day off from work to do your fill. Speak to the teacher and to members of your school’s PTA early on and ask for the dates of any upcoming events so you can ideally schedule one day away from work to help in both your child’s classroom and with a school-wide event.
If you have more than one school-aged child, you may be able to volunteer your time for one classroom in the morning and the other in the afternoon, thus fulfilling your commitment for both kids in one fell swoop.
Between sports practices, school clubs, parents’ evenings, and your usual work commitments, periods such as the start of a new term can be especially hectic. The sooner you are able to work out the logistics of the family’s new weekly routine, the less stressful life will become.
Invest in a white board or other large calendar you can hang on the wall at home so everyone can see one another’s schedules. This is especially helpful if your children will be getting picked up by different people depending on the day and what after-school activity is taking place. If your children are older, look for an app you can all use from your mobile phones to keep track of the day-to-day activities and events.
You can’t be a good parent and a good employee if you don’t take good care of yourself so don’t neglect your mental health and wellbeing. It’s important to make time for yourself, even if it’s only 20 minutes a day. Go for a run, meditate, call a good friend, or play with your pet without the distraction of a mobile device. If you find yourself especially stressed, seek help.
Many companies increased their benefits during the pandemic to help employees cope with the added stress and take care of their mental well-being. Take another look at your employee handbook or contact HR to find out if any programmes or initiatives are in place to help you manage your mental health. For example, your company may offer a membership to the Calm meditation app or a certain number of monthly visits with a virtual therapist via providers like TalkSpace.