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Balancing Fatherhood and Work

  • Ken R. Canfield, Ph.D. <i>The National Center for Fathering</i>
  • 2004 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Balancing Fatherhood and Work

Not long ago, I received a note from a mother named Denise. She writes:

After 20 years, I have finally realized that my husband will never be the father Christ desires because he's a workaholic. Our daughter has struggled with loving her father since he has consistently put family after his work. As his wife, I have clearly seen that this is a choice and desire rather than a need.

He is active in the church and the men's ministry, which almost makes it worse, because our children see him as a hypocrite. I see how he struggles with who he is in Christ, and strives to prove to others and himself that because he has his own business, he is important.

Our daughter's graduation marks the end of her childhood years, and he missed most of them. Now he is passing on to our 17-year-old son the same dysfunctional behavior. How I have prayed, his children have prayed, and friends have prayed that he would see that his labor is in vain.

I share Denise's note not to beat up on her husband, but to help you realize how much power you have as a father, and to help you determine if you're headed down the same destructive path.

Surely you've faced the questions: Do I put in more time at work to pursue career advancement? Should I begin looking for a more father-friendly job?

Part of the solution is to think in terms of integration. Instead of seeing one fast track and one daddy track diverging in different directions, try viewing them as two rails that make up one set of tracks, moving toward the same goal. Your career is one more aspect of your fathering-a means to provide for the physical and emotional well being of your family. With that priority firmly in place, you can make decisions about promotions, transfers, and work schedules based on how it will affect your wife and children. Your job also provides opportunities to model a healthy work ethic and demonstrate leadership skills for your children.

Sure, the rewards of fathering are much less immediate and obvious. No one is likely to praise you for going to a child's soccer game. Did you get a bonus last winter for staying up with your son when he had the flu? Spending an hour with your daughter working on geometry homework probably didn't do much for your sense of "success" and "accomplishment."

But be reminded-and be warned: We have limited years of daily interaction with our kids. It's precious time! There's no higher-yield investment! We need to be firmly grounded in sound priorities, based on God's Word, so we can be wise when faced with decisions such as whether to take a promotion, whether to change jobs, or simply that daily decision to push away from our desks and get home in time for dinner.

Work hard, dad, but keep it in perspective. Work has the potential to not only distract us, but consume us if we aren't careful.

Suggestions to Help You Navigate Work and Family

• Ask your wife and children, "Is my work consuming me?"

• Put birthdays, recitals, soccer games, plays, etc. on your work calendar. Tell co-workers that you wouldn't miss those events for the world, and ask them to help remind you.

• Look over your career goals for the next few years. Can you realistically accomplish all of them?

• Is your family's budget based on realistic needs, or on some culture-driven idea about earning power, upward mobility, and keeping up social appearances?

• Can you afford to make some changes in your work schedule for the sake of your family?

• Be candid with your boss about the priority of your family and your dedication to doing your best at work. Suggest "win-win" solutions for potential conflict situations.

• Create regular rituals to connect with your wife and kids-phone calls from the office, special "daddy" time when you walk in the door, or other weekly events that keep you in touch.

• Block out time for your own rejuvenation, whether you use the time to exercise, take a walk, or wind down a little before going home.


The National Center for Fathering was founded in 1990 by Dr. Ken Canfield because every child needs a dad they can count on -- someone who loves them, knows them, guides them and helps them achieve their destiny. Visit www.fathers.com for more articles and resources to assist dads in nearly every fathering situation.