The transition into fatherhood brings unique challenges, especially for dads who are still expected to work. It’s completely normal to feel some pressure when trying to manage your workload, prioritise time with your children, and maintain healthy relationships. You’re certainly not alone in feeling like it’s a lot. In a society that places the bulk of child-raising on mothers, it often feels like there’s little understanding or support for fathers.
Rest assured, you're not the only one feeling this way. As time goes on, this will be something you'll find easier to manage. To get you started, we’ve put together a few pointers to help you find the right balance.
Figuring out your priorities
It’s important to take time to think about what family life and career success looks like to you. Whether you're still aiming to climb the career ladder or you’re considering putting this on hold whilst you focus on your family, you'll need to decide how you’d like the next year to pan out.
Once you've figured this out, prioritise tasks that align with this and don't be afraid to say no to things that don’t positively support the needs of your family. Be honest about the effect having a family might have on your work and set realistic goals that consider and prioritise your wellbeing. It's easy to overwork yourself, especially if you want the best of both worlds - take a step back and reassess how much you're taking on.
Communicating your needs with your partner
Having regular, open, and honest conversations with your partner about both of your needs creates a healthy environment where you can support one another. If things are piling up at work and you can't take on as much at home, let them know. If you have a little more free time, communicate this and see if there's extra support you can offer.
When your baby is born, it may be harder for you to take on a more active role when it comes to childcare (such as breastfeeding). Think of other ways you can help instead. Babies tend to be happier in the morning than the evening; within this period, you could spend some 1:1 time with your baby and let your partner rest.
You could also take on a more active role in housework to balance out the responsibility between you and your partner. Around 60% of parents attribute untidiness as one of their biggest stressors at home. Therefore, staying on top of housework if your partner is responsible for feedings will likely reduce stress for both of you.
Taking paternity leave
You may want to consider taking paternity leave when your baby is 2 or 3 months old. There may be more you can help with around this time, allowing you to make the most out of your time together. Studies also show that it can take an average of 6 months to form a bond with your child, so don’t worry too much about whether you’re getting enough quality time straight after birth; this bond will develop over time.
Consider your options when it comes to paternity leave, such as exploring when best to take it or thinking about if Shared Parental Leave will work better for your family. You and your partner can determine how you envision family life in a way that allows for a healthy work-life balance.
Setting workplace boundaries
Working is seen as an integral part of fatherhood, as many still see the “breadwinning” role as a crucial part of supporting the family. Within work, you may be used to or encouraged to take on more work to further your career. However, regardless of how you’re mapping out your career goals, it’s essential to put in place appropriate boundaries to prioritise a healthy work-life balance.
Unfortunately, it’s become generally accepted that dads can take a back seat in raising the child whilst mums take the lead. This can further support the idea that, as a father, your most important contribution is to provide financially for your family.
Setting boundaries is key. For example, if you decide that 5pm to 7pm is family time, make sure work doesn't seep in. If you have missed emails or calls, make a point to tend to them after you've had your family time. Integrate and schedule family time into your calendar like you would for work tasks.
Switching off from work and being present
Establishing boundaries is the start of switching off and being present. Quite literally, switching off your phone or muting notifications (work and non-work related) will help you be more present during family time. It's far too easy to pick up your phone and find yourself replying to work emails, even if you weren't using your phone for work-related tasks.
Babies love routine and like to know what to expect during certain times throughout the day. Dedicating time at the start of the day before work is a great way to engage with your baby. Think of morning times as your special time together by offering to take early morning feeding - this also gives your partner a little extra time to catch up on sleep.
Discussing flexible working options with your employer
A study shows that a third of fathers don't know their rights when adapting their work arrangements to suit their family life, with many employers also unclear. In the UK, fathers have the right to request arrangements that allow them to go part-time or job-share.
Have open conversations with your employer about your needs as a working father. Discuss their flexibility in adapting your schedule to suit the needs of you and your family. Alongside this, consider asking your employers if working from home is a viable option. This frees up a little more time in the morning and the evening, where you might have been commuting, to spend with your little one.
Final thoughts from Kami
As a working father, there are a number of ways to adjust to life with a baby. You don’t have to completely give up your career for the sake of your child; likewise, it’s possible to spend meaningful time with your baby away from work. Whether you take paternity leave, switch to working from home, or communicate with your partner about how to help with the child, what’s important is you find what works for you and your family.