Work is getting in the way men’s family time. Here’s what to do about it.
Staying silent about this doesn’t work.
While we often hear more about how women struggle to balance work and family, men actually have the same levels of work-family conflict that women do, according to a study published Thursday in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The study looked at more than 350 past studies on work-family conflict with more than 250,000 men and women over three decades.
This means that men, as much as women, feel that their work and family lives are in conflict with one another — say, when a child’s play takes place during their workday and they must choose between the two, or when they have to interrupt a family dinner to send some emails. That finding is surprising, says lead researcher Kristen Shockley, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia — especially considering that the popular narrative is often that men don’t feel much conflict over this.
But they’re conflicted all right. Just ask New York City father David Waring. In the past three years, FitSmallBusiness.com, the site he co-founded, grew from having two employees to more than 40 — and he and his wife had two children. “It’s been a struggle managing both,” he tells Moneyish. “We have so much going on that it is hard to completely unplug as there is always a fire burning. Switching my mind from business mode to family mode is also a struggle, especially during the week, especially when I get home from work.”
Of course, women have long felt this way, though they’re more likely to talk about it, as there is “some socialization for it being OK for women to talk more about it than men,” explains Shockley. Meanwhile, many men remain silent. In many cases the reason is that “it isn’t considered manly or socially acceptable to loudly advocate for more flexibility at work to achieve that elusive balance,” explains Call to Career Founder Cheryl Palmer.
It can be particularly hard for men to bring up the issue of wanting more work-family balance with their boss, as “there is still a stigma around this issue,” says Call to Career founder Cheryl Palmer. “Even in 2017, men are still commented on, or at least noticed when they want more time with the kids,” adds career strategist Carlota Zimmerman. “Stereotypes are still tremendously prevalent.”
That means that if they do bring it up, men “have to be careful,” Palmer says. “Start small, ask if you can work remotely on a day of the week that is already fairly relaxed, meet your deadlines, be available for calls and then over time, request more,” says Zimmerman — who adds that whether you get your request will be determined by the man’s company culture, title, responsibilities and age, as well as how much he’s valued by the company. You also have to show that the plan will benefit the company (i.e. working from home means less commute time so you can do more in your work day).
Sometimes even that won’t work, so you may have to change your work habits. “A few simple tweaks can have an enormous impact in terms of efficiency and confidence. Like making a daily to-do list and by not hopping from one agenda item to another,” says career coach Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.” And Waring says he now schedules “not just meetings but every minute of my day” so he can try to get home by 7 to spend an hour in the evening with his kids before they go to bed. You could also create times of the day when you are with the kids — and thus aren’t reachable on email.
Plus, you have to know where to set boundaries, says Gabe Lumby, a father or two sons and the owner of a financial education site. “If they provide you three weeks vacation – just take the vacation! There will always be some excuse why you need to adjust your personal plans, but you don’t have to give in to that pressure,” he says. And, of course, if none of that is easing the pressure, it may be time to consider a firm where work-life balance is a priority.
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