How can modern dads find a good and fulfilling balance in their work-and-family life? How do you negotiate with your boss working-from-home options or flexible hours? What are my priorities in life as a dad?
Recently I came across Scott Behson’s new book ‘The Working Dad’s Survival Guide’, and after chatting with him, we both exchanged and reviewed our books.
Behson has written a very practical guide for all (working) dads, who wish to be more in control of their job/work situation, but also at home. Each chapter is filled with inspirations and easy-to-do practices. The book can be of great help to find out what’s best for your personal work-and-family-life (and how to achieve it).
Here’s an interview with Scott Behson, PhD:
Torsten Klaus: For years men and fathers have been pressed and pushed into their classic roles: earning enough money to support the famil;, 24/7-workaholics who only see their children at weekends, if they’re lucky enough. From your experience and work, is there now a big shift in society?
Scott Behson: Virtually every dad I know cares a lot about his career and earning enough for the family, WHILE ALSO being a hands-on, involved loving dad. Society, and especially the work world, still expects men to fulfil their breadwinner roles, and has not adequately supported men as involved fathers.
Despite these challenges, I see so many men stepping. But largely, we’ve been left to figure this out on our own. That’s why I wrote ‘The Working Dad’s Survival Guide’ – to provide advice and encouragement to my fellow working dads, showing them that they can have successful careers and still be the fathers they always wanted to be – and that our families need us to be. You are not alone. You can do it.
You’re a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a professional expert on family issues and a hands-on dad. You got at least three demanding jobs. Was this your personal motivation to write a book about successful dads at home and work?
My career as a business school professor and consultant is focused on researching work-family balance and helping both dads and employers find solutions. But, more importantly, I’m a busy working dad who aspires to both career success and being a highly involved, loving dad and husband. I have some insight from my professional life, and also know what it is like for my readers who wish to live a more balanced life- I face the same challenges.
I think the unique value of my book is this dual perspective. I have never seen a book that looks at work-family challenges from these two perspectives at once. I think many readers will find it relatable and useful.
In your work you talk about the importance of supportive workplaces. What is, from your point, a well supportive workplace (for dads) and what deficits do you see in most current workplaces?
Here in the US, it seems to me that work-family concerns are now firmly on the radar for many companies – as an important business issue, and not just as a “nice to have” women’s concern. Most organizational leaders can see the costs of employee turnover, and how they may lose the “war for talent” to competitors if they don’t adapt. As a result, we’ve seen a proliferation of pro-dad policies such as generous paternity leave and increased work flexibility.
However, enacting policy is just step one. Where companies need to make up ground is in changing supervisory attitudes and corporate cultures to take a more long-term view on employee management. More decision-makers need to see that accommodating employees in the short-term with their family challenges actually benefits them in the long-term by helping them hold onto valuable employees and increasing engagement and loyalty. The message is slowly starting to get through.
I’m an optimist. We’re not having this conversation 10 years ago. We’re grappling with it now. I imagine things will get better 10 years from now.
What were, so far, the three most inspirational moments when talking with fathers?
I interviewed dozens of dads for my book, and I was amazed that, even though the particulars were different, we all shared the same central challenge- succeeding at work and trying to be great dads. It seemed as if each dad had an inspirational story to share.
The dad that sticks in my mind the most was the father of one of my students, whom I met at an Honors event at my university. He is an uneducated immigrant who worked and sacrificed his whole life, and poured that life into his son. I was with him as he watched his soon-to-be-college-graduate son receive his Honors diploma in a fancy hotel ballroom. I could just see the pride in his eyes as he felt all his years of sacrifice pay off. He’s my inspiration, both as a dad and as a college professor.
What do you enjoy about fatherhood?
What don’t I enjoy!!! But the best thing, to me, is to be able to experience the world through the eyes of my son, with all the wonder of new discovery. Being a dad is the joy and privilege of my life.
In your book, you give a lot of practical advice and share exercises for dads to try out. Often you also speak from your own experience which is very encouraging for other dads. From all your advice for working dads, what’s the best and most important tip to help dads finding a better work-family-balance? And how have you implemented that into your own life?
I think it all starts with really thinking through your priorities. What do you really want out of life, your career, your family, your one shot at your kids’ childhoods? Once you figure out your priorities, there are hundreds of ways you can consciously make decisions to align your life with your priorities. This way, you can achieve your definition of success at work and at home instead of drifting through life without a clear plan. My book provides self-assessment exercises to get you started, and lots of ideas on how to implement your plan.
On a personal level, thanks to writing the book, I’ve gotten much better at managing my time. Instead of multi-tasking and running from thing to thing, I am better at scheduling in “time chunks” to really focus on work and keep that time separate from the time chunks I spend fully immersed with family. I schedule time chunks for my priorities- playing with my son, a bi-weekly lunch date with my wife, a full hour for exercise, what have you. A solid two-hour chunk with my family, followed by a few hours of writing is far better for everyone than trying to write all night and stealing 15 minutes of family time here and there.
What do you wish for all working fathers?
I am incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to be fully present throughout my son’s childhood. I have a great job that gives me lots of control over my time, a supportive wife, and a great network of friends who can help. But even from my fortunate perch, I struggle with work and family pressures. We all have our challenges. We all could use some help. That’s why I wrote this book.
It is my sincerest hope that all fathers can experience the joy of being fully present and involved through their kids’ childhoods. My wish for you and for all fathers is that you can succeed in your career, provide for your family, and spend vast quantities of high quality time with those you love.
Thank you so much, Scott, and good luck with your book!
Scott Behson, PhD, is a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a national expert in work and family issues, and was a featured speaker at the recent White House Summit on Working Families. He’s the author of the book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home, the first book of its kind to provide advice and encouragement for working fathers, helping them to achieve success in their careers while also being the involved, loving dads they always wanted to be. Scott founded and runs the popular blog, “Fathers, Work, and Family,” dedicated to helping working fathers and encouraging more supportive workplaces. He writes regularly for the Harvard Business Review Online, Huffington Post and the Good Men Project, and has also been published in TIME and The Wall Street Journal.
Book: http://WorkingDadsSurvivalGuide.com, http://amzn.to/1PWQtky
Professional Speaking: http://brightsightgroup.com/speakers/scott-behson/