Telecommuting Dads: How to Balance Work and Family

Get back to your roots as a present, powerful work-at-home dad

For most of human history, both men and women have provided for their families from home, spending most of their time near their children and sharing in household chores. It was only very recently, with the advent of factory and office jobs, that fathers came to spend their days far from home, in a totally separate social circle from their families.

While it seems like just another buzzword, telecommuting matters—it’s eliminating that factory-imposed separation for many families, bringing them closer to the kind of family life that our great-great-grandparents would recognize. Working from home has its own challenges, but it can be a truly help you become a better dad. Here are some tips to help you navigate it.

Define your workday

For our ancestors, their work time was cut out for them by the sun and the growing season—but modern work-at-home dads have to determine for themselves how much work is appropriate. If you’re not deliberate about how long you’ll work during the day, it’s easy to get distracted checking Facebook or reading the news, and then finding yourself scrambling to get things done late at night, when you ought to be with the kids.

Especially if you’re self-employed, the temptation can be strong to burn the midnight oil—but if that happens too often, you and your family will miss out on the great advantages that come with having you around during the day. Decide ahead of time when you need to “punch out”—and stand by it.

Work smart when it’s time to work

Before you start the day, decide which distractions you’ll allow. You’ll probably want to download a distraction-blocking extension like LeechBlock for Firefox or StayFocusd for Chrome, but if picking up the guitar or a good book helps you mull things over, go for it. If it helps to take the laptop out into the backyard with a glass of lemonade, do it. The point is, don’t try to go cold-turkey—man cannot live on spreadsheets alone, and you’ll be more effective if you allow yourself some breathing room.

Also, check out a time-management system like Pomodoro. If you can break up your day into small tasks with small deadlines, you’ll be much more efficient, creating time for your spouse and children. It helps some people to have a reward system: when you complete one of your tasks, allow yourself a small reward, and take ten or fifteen minutes to relax.

Be “present” to the extent possible

Work out with your spouse how available you can be during the workday. If you’re a single parent, or your spouse works outside the home, then you’re probably going to have a long “hybrid” workday of getting in whatever work you can while putting out fires with the kids, and you should think seriously about whether you can be both a good dad and a good provider under those conditions. It can be done; it just depends on your temperament and the nature of your job.

If your spouse is home with you for most of the day, it might help to take a midday break with your kids—make them lunch, take them to the park, play games—it’s a great way for both you and your spouse to get a breather. You can get an hour away from the LCD screen, and your spouse can steal a quiet hour with a book or do lunch with a friend. It also provides a nice “halftime” for you to decompress, go outside, and take a fresh look at things.

Also, talk to your spouse and kids about times when you need privacy for conference calls, sales calls, or impending deadlines. If you don’t have help with the kids during the day, recognize that a job like that will be a serious challenge. If your spouse is around to help, work together to set boundaries so that you can be available for your kids while still putting in an honest day’s work for your employer.

[About the author: Patricia Shuler is a BBGeeks.com staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics. Image: CarbonNYC]

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