When asked how she balances her extremely successful TV career with motherhood, writer, producer and mom of three, Shonda Rhimes, took the opportunity to raise a valid point. “Nobody ever asks a man how they do it all.”
She went on to say that by only asking women we’re not being gender equal. She’s right in that it’s a question that I ask working mothers all the time, but not once had I ever thought to ask a man. I assume that he has a wife at home who takes care of the kids. I also assume that men don’t have the same conflict being away from home that we women do.
But is that true? Just because men have the traditional role of being providers does it mean that they don’t care about being at home? Is balancing work and fatherhood as important to them?
I posed the question of balance to a few working fathers and got some interesting answers:
Chris, a busy stage manager in Los Angeles and father of twin boys, says that while working away from home wasn’t a big deal when his boys were babies. Now that they’re two-years-old and developing their personalities, it’s hard for him to leave. As it stands, he works five or six days a week and usually only has one day off.
Balance is important.
“I have three commitments. Myself, my wife and my kids. All deserve time so you gotta work it out.”
He works it out by scheduling his day off with time for himself, which usually includes early morning golf, and time with the boys. Some days he takes the boys with him and kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. Date nights get scheduled too. He says, “When the man is the breadwinner there’s no built-in system in place to make sure you’re okay so you have to schedule your life, and remind yourself to take time for you.”
For Harold, a FedEx worker and father of two, finding balance meant taking a job that pays him less, but allows him to be home in the mornings and early afternoons. “I cherish the time with my kids because I believe they make me a better person. Hopefully, my daughter will find a guy like her dad…she sees me cook and clean and go to work, I take her to school everyday. It’s really a great feeling because I know one day she won’t want to be seen with me.”
He adds that he wouldn’t be able to strike such a balance without a loving mate who compliments and enhances the whole process. “It helps greatly to have your kids living with you and your mate.” Harold has been with his wife 11 years and married for four.
If there’s anything we working moms know it’s that it helps to have help.
Louis, a lawyer and dad, recognizes that the only way he’s been able to juggle the constant demands between work and family is through having both his parents and mother-in-law nearby. He also discovered that once he accepted that there will be times when he will have to prioritize work over family, it doesn’t mean that he is establishing work as an absolute priority. “I was able to let go of a lot of the stress and guilt surrounding such moments which actually makes it easier when I have to decide how to deal with conflicts.”
Drop the mic.
Even though men don’t talk about it, they care a lot about the time they spend working away from home. Seeing the thought and effort that goes into the balancing act that they perform in order to make it work, is eye opening.
Admittedly, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past resenting my husband for ‘escaping’ to work while I spent my time at home ‘stuck’ with the kids. It wasn’t until I took a job that barely allowed me to see them that I was able to appreciate being at home and experiencing the little things. It’s comforting to know that men want to experience these things too. But they do have to work. And so do we. Maybe we can work together more.