Project Dad

Project Dad: A Working Dad Leans Out

A real dad talks work/life balance

As much as I love my job, it has never been the only thing that defines who I am. I am a father, a husband, a sometime filmmaker and a lousy outfielder in an old man softball league.

The trickiest part of this juggling act is finding the balance between "breadwinner" and the grunt work of parenting. I've always been an active part of my kids' lives on a daily basis, and not just some dude who rolls in to say "goodnight" after they are already in bed. Connecting with them in a fun way has always been easy for me. Making lunches, figuring out logistics, discipline and cleaning up after them is a little different.

When my wife and I were talking about having a second child, there were many discussions about the sacrifices she made when our daughter was born, and that if we were going to have another kid, I was going to have to step up.

Now this might sound like a mandate, but ever since our daughter was born it's been my priority to shoulder the responsibility as equally as possible. But after our daughter's birth, my wife was not working full-time, so a lot of the burden fell on her.

In retrospect, my inability to be flexible with my work/life balance was probably due to my fear of broaching the subject at my job. As the months went by with our daughter, I slowly started to figure out that I could be more flexible, and that work would not suffer. Going in a little late after dropping my daughter off at day care is not a big deal, and although staying at home with a sick kid is not the best way to work, it can be done, and no one was judging me for it. I also found that the more involved I was, the more connected I felt to my family, which made me happy.

While my wife was pregnant with our second child, I requested a month off to stay home when she went back to work. I used two weeks of vacation, and took two weeks unpaid. Although there are deadlines, long hours and pressures with my job, I am fortunate to have an understanding boss. When I approached him about my plan, he was incredibly supportive, and almost seemed to have admiration for my decision. What was really great about that month was that it provided my son and me with crucial bonding time, which can only happen once in both of our lives.

MORE: Boys' Attachments to Dads in Child Development

Since that month, I've done a better job with the balance. We both work full-time, but I make breakfast and pack lunches every morning, take the kids to school a day or two a week and pick them up at their after-school care if my wife has dropped them off in the morning. If I need to pick up a kid early, I do it—and work from home at night. The balance is never perfect. On any given day, my wife or I are doing more of the work, but it does not always fall on one person. We are in it together, and we make it work.

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