A shaky job market and increasing work loads are putting fresh demands on working fathers, who want more time for their kids, surveys show. What's a dad to do?
STRATEGIES FOR WORKING DADS
Put home on the agenda: Schedule your calendar for important events such as big games, recitals and family outings.
Be there for meals: Absence at dinner time should be a rare event.
Develop a master plan: Add every family member's schedule to one master calendar so you can plan ahead.
Play now, work later: Turn off your Blackberry and avoid checking e-mails until after your children have gone to sleep.
Take the kids to work: Showing them what you do for a living will help them understand where you are when you are away from them.
Talk about your work: Along with being aware of what is going on in your children's lives, let them know what is going on in your office, so everyone understands why you are away or have to do some work when you are home.
Learn to say no: Consider which work activities are crucial and which assignments you should turn down to free up time outside of the office.
Get tips from other dads: Talk to men who make family a high priority to find out how they ensure quality time with their kids and how they explain to children if they can't be there as much as they kids might like.
Sources: Workopolis.com and CareerBuilder.com
THERE FOR THE KIDS
David O'Flaherty, Montreal
Situation: Sales representative for computer equipment distributor Synnex Corp. Has a seven-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
Decision: Although a promotion to national sales would be a step up, "I made a conscious decision to not take positions in the company that would force me to take time on the road and require me to travel." He didn't want to be like his father, whose business trips often had him away from the family a week at a time.
Negotiation: When his wife, who works, gave birth to their son two years ago, Mr. O'Flaherty approached his employer asking for four months' paternity leave (Quebec law allows parents to split 12 months of parental leave). "It was a surprise to the company and my co-workers at first. I was the first father to request that much time for paternity leave," he says. In the end, "they were pretty easy about it," with a temporary replacement named to fill his position on leave.
Adjustments: He has become the primary cook because his wife works longer hours than he does. "I've found ways to be at home more by using technology, like a virtual private network that allows me to log in to my office on my home computer. I can leave early or work from home after hours."
Result: "I think I have a much stronger and better relationship with my kids because I've been able to spend so much time with them. It definitely creates a strong bond to be able to be there for them when they need me."
Mario Bottone, Montreal and Toronto
Situation: Has two daughters, now 10 and eight, who did not want to leave Montreal when he landed new job 15 months ago, as vice-president of marketing for job site Workopolis.ca in Toronto.
Decision: Family remained in Montreal and he commutes three days a week to Toronto. "It obviously puts a strain on everyone, but they agreed I should take the job because it was a great opportunity."
Negotiation: Employer agreed to cover cost of commuting to Toronto every Tuesday morning and flying back on Thursday, and lets him work remotely from his home office in Montreal the rest of the week. In return, "I promised to burn the midnight oil in my days in Toronto and meet their high expectations."
Adjustments: "You have to fill the meter with good will when you can. So I have to be the super dad on the weekends."
Result: "It's working well. Technology makes it possible to work from home and spend more time with the family, but you've got to be very careful to disengage and power down the tech when you're with the family."
MAKING HOME A PRIORITY
Paul Woolford, Toronto.
Situation: Tax partner with KPMG Enterprise, with a son, 19, and daughter, 10. In his 20-year career, he says he has always made family a priority.
Decision: He works up to 80 hours a week in busy times, but schedules time off even in peak times for family events. "I let clients and co-workers know in advance that I have commitments."
Negotiation: Arranged with his employer that if his family commitments conflict with work, he can either have a meeting rescheduled or ask another partner to fill in. He reciprocates when other dads need time. KPMF also has a program that lets employees request short-term leaves of absence for family issues.
Adjustments: "I learned to write family time into my agenda. It's become easier thanks to technology. The dad of today has access to computers and BlackBerries that make it more possible to stay in touch while not physically present. ... I can stay in touch with work if I have to leave at 3 in an afternoon to see my daughters skating" he says.
Result: "It seems to work for my family because they know where to find me and I can be more responsive to them."
"You can't have a meaningful conversation at the dinner table with a Blackberry in your hands, so power down until you put the kids to sleep. Schedule meetings with your family; block out time that you know you will devote to your family and don't cancel, because they are counting on you even more than your co-workers are."
- Mario Bottone, vice-president of Workopolis.
"Fathers no longer feel compelled to always put their career first, if it requires spending 80 hours a week at work. Good employers must realize that accommodating working fathers' responsibilities outside of work will be necessary to attract and retain the best talent that's out there. Companies and their HR departments will find that offering flexibility can be motivating at a time when employees have to take on higher work loads and less money is available for raises and bonuses."
- Robert Waghorn, spokesman for Monster.ca in Montreal
THE TOLL OF THE ECONOMY
Portion of working dads who put in more than 40 hours a week at work.
Portion who take work home at least five days a week.
Portion who do office work on weekends.
Portion who say they have no more than two hours to spend with their children each work day.
Portion who said they missed two or more significant events in their child's life because of work in the past year.
Portion who say they feel guilty when work commitments take precedence over family time.
Portion who say they would take a 10-per-cent pay cut if it meant they could spend 10 per cent more time with their family.
Portion who would consider making a job change if an employer offered more family-friendly options than their current job provides.
Sources: Workopolis.com poll of 1,001 Canadians; CareerBuilder.com survey of 800 U.S. working fathers.
FENDING FOR THEMSELVES
Portion of working dads who say they feel they're on their own when it comes to balancing work and family life.
Portion who say technology allows them to balance work and being a dad.
Portion who say their employer has policies that help them arrange to spend more time with their kids.