What It’s Really Like to be a Working Father

10 tips from real-life dads

Being a working parent isn’t easy. Most spend their time working 40-plus hours a week, while striving to maintain healthy relationships, spending quality time with their spouse and children, and maybe even doing something for themselves in their free time.

Earlier this year, we spoke with 10 working mothers to see what it’s really like to work full time and be a mom. We got a lot of feedback on that post from readers, many asking, what about the dads?

We decided to take that on next, exploring just how working dads balance family and career. Here’s what we found out:  Almost 52 percent of working dads find it difficult to balance family time and work. Yet, it’s a priority for them to be actively involved and present in their families’ lives. Here are their best strategies for balancing full-time work and parenting:

Unplug After Work

While it’s not easy to keep the smartphone away, I make sure that, when I’m talking with my kids and my wife, I’m looking at them, not on the computer or my phone. If I happen to be working at home when they talk to me, I lower the screen or move so I’m focused on them. I also do whatever I can in my work schedule to attend their games and performances. I try to be there for them. Life is too fleeting and kids really do grow up too fast to not make time to be an active part of my kids’ and my wife’s life.”

–Mike Driehorst, father of four children under 19 who works for Weaving Influence

Be Present

“Be present when you’re home. Find the things your kids love to do and make time to do them. With my wife, we try for one date night a week (really a must), and at least one family outing together with the four of us (also a must).”

–Jesse Alexander, father of a 5-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy, owner of a Cycle Bar franchise

Practice Balance

“Balance is an inherently labor-intensive activity. Think about how your body is always responding to different information and adjusting to maintain balance. It’s the same with a family – we are constantly reacting and shifting our time commitments and priorities to make sure family stays at the top. We all have different roles at work and roles in our families. Of all the tools and tricks to managing these roles, none is more important than maintaining a mindset where the family is the priority and requires presence of mind. It is the most important role of all.”

–Derek Riedle, father of two, and founder of Civilized

Just Do It

“As simple as it may sound you just do it. I usually work really hard Monday through Friday and leave my weekends for only doing family things. During the week, I try to balance my time with whichever family member needs the most attention at the moment. I think you must look into your heart and clearly define what you value most, and decide how to balance the work-life journey.”

–Marlino Bitanga, father of several children under 11

Make your Time Intentional

“Be intentional about time. Whether it is at work or at home, be all there when you are there. If you are all in at work, you can be effective and efficient. You’ll complete your work on time and won’t let overwork or stress bleed into family time. When you’re at home, be all there. Your family should be the most important people in your life. Treat them that way. Pay attention to them when you are together. Turn off your work notifications (there’ll be plenty of time to check them later). If you let other things take your attention away from your family and your spouse, there will be a price to pay. Trust me. You have to make a commitment to your family–5 o’clock (or whatever your quitting time) is the end of your workday There is nothing you can do over [an] hour or two that can’t be accomplished the next day.”

–Matthew Coleman, father of two girls and two stepsons, and Marketing Director at  MyEmplyoees.com

Leave Work at the Door

“Balancing work and family can be very tough. There are bills to pay, yet at the end of the day our little ones grow up so fast! The best thing you can do when entering your home is to leave your work at the door if you can and jump right into being with your wife and kids. It’ll make for a better quality time which is important for both you and your family in every regard from fatherhood and marriage to health and happiness.”

Stuart Conover, father of two boys, ages 2 and 4

Prioritize What’s Most Important

“It’s really hard to balance all the demands. The important thing is to prioritize those things that are the most important. While I may like going out to the bar with my friends twice a week, it’s far less rewarding than spending quality time with my wife and daughter.”

–Ian Wright, father of a one-year-old daughter and founder of Merchant Machine


Communicate With Your Partner

“In general, I think a successful dad work-life balance has a lot to do with listening to your partner and doing your best to meet [her] needs while at the same time earning enough to pay bills and save. Forming your work schedule around your family is a sign of love and respect, whereas forming your family time around your work is an act of neglect.”

–J.R. Duren, finance reporter at HighYa.com, and father to a toddler.

Money Isn’t Everything

“I am a stay-at-home father of two sons. I had a good corporate job until I left a couple years ago when our second son was born. [My wife and I] were always concerned about our finances and saved a lot. Eventually, we did our calculations and found that if I didn’t work we could still lead a very good lifestyle from a financial perspective, plus spend so much more time with the family. My advice to a lot of dads is to realize that working longer and harder is a tradeoff, and a lot of times the extra money you’re making you will never spend. Instead, you can forgo that extra money and spend more time with your family.”

–Andrew Van Fossen, a stay-at-home dad, and father of two young sons.

Success Comes at a Price

“Unfortunately, my success came at the price of long hours and evening exhaustion. I started neglecting my family, and especially my wife. My wife and I recently reconciled after being separated for 2.5 years… In the end, the time apart showed us some valuable lessons. We never hated each other; we got along pretty well, all things considered. We just decided that we couldn’t live together anymore. But through the time apart, we realized that for anything we might’ve gained through separation, it couldn’t make up for what we lost as a family. We decided we would move forward in life together, committing to each other, learning from our mistakes, and depending on each other. We just had an offer accepted on a beautiful house and will be bringing the family back together again.”

–Matthew Coleman, father of two daughters, ages 6 and 5, and two stepsons, ages 17 and 15