The Unspoken Struggles of Working Dads
Does this sight look familiar?
Being a working dad is tough. It's more than just the outward challenges of stress, long hours, travel, and chasing career milestones. The things we don't talk about, especially as the primary bread-winner for the family, take the inner toll.
- The pressure of family reliance on our paycheck;
- The lack of freedom to do what we want (be it our dream occupation or working in a manner that puts our job at risk succumbing to corporate expectations);
- Missing time with our families as our kids grow older during each conference call and social activity…
Sometimes the view is rather lonely.
Talking about missing time with the kids is tough. At home or socially, there is still a stigma (perhaps self-imposed) in 2016 of men speaking about emotional issues. At work, we don't dare bring up topics that may sound like we're not 100% committed to our jobs. How ridiculous: who wouldn't rather be with their kids than preparing budgets?
There's also the pressure to maintain, if not constantly chase better, levels of income. This can mean working more/harder than we need to for career advancement. Or, staying in jobs we have come to loathe. Or not being true to ourselves at work, for fear of becoming an outcast. Perhaps Western culture, certainly the United States, could benefit greatly in taking a cue from the Kingdom of Bhutan - respecting and measuring happiness as the more important engine of economic prosperity. What difference does it matter how high we get if we don't enjoy it?
There is always a choice.
Most of us, certainly those with the luxury of being able to read this online, are not actually forced into our jobs, regardless of how much we try to convince ourselves of this "fact." So we've made a choice. We know this, deep down inside, and yet it's so taboo in the traditional workspace - acknowledging it is off-limits... How can we not talk about and deal with such a universal feeling? What is it about how we show up to each other that allows something so ubiquitous to be unspeakable?
Don't let this be the elephant in the room!
I don't have a solution - far from it. But I do know that I'm not stuck on this path forever. I can work to find common ground; short of striking gold, there is a balance to be found. Being a Dad is a far greater responsibility than any title on a business card. Make that the topic of conversation over drinks during your next work function or networking event, I dare you. It will leave a greater lasting impression than your business card. If you're not comfortable with that, how about start with a good book? Check out The Working Dad's Survival Guide, by Scott Behson.