Struggling to be a great father and have a great career? You’re not alone

I once worked with a boss who would regularly bring his young daughter to work with him. She was about 18 months at the time (if I remember correctly) and she would toddle around us in the office and join us for meetings. She’d regularly have a point of view to add to the meeting, usually something crucial about her toy that she needed to share with her dad right there and then, in the middle of his comments. It often made me chuckle because no one else would ever talk over him!  
When she first came in, I remember feeling both surprised and delighted. Everyone seemed happy to have her in the office. Plus, it somehow made our boss a ‘normal’ man. It struck me that, there he was, facing the joint challenge of being a great businessman and a great family man at the same time.   
With Father’s Day being celebrated in the UK on Sunday 16 June, and having since changed career to be a couples therapist, this scenario has come back to me as an important consideration in my work. That was around eight years ago. Since then, unfortunately I’ve witnessed little effort from businesses to genuinely support a healthy work/life balance for parents. Sure, there are policies, but... 
Last month Daddilife, the parenting website for dads, released the results of a study produced in association with Deloitte. They interviewed over 2,000 working dads and found that 40% of them have requested a change in working hours to accommodate fatherhood, but nearly half of them (44%) have been turned down. Staggering, but not surprising.  
The study also rather worryingly highlighted that nearly half of working fathers regularly experience tension from their employer when trying to balance work and family life. Sadly 45% also regularly experience tension with their partner. And nearly two-thirds feel guilty about the effect their work has on their partner, with 51% feeling guilty about not spending time with their kids. 
So, if employers aren’t supporting their male employees to be good fathers, there’s a very real business risk of losing top performers. Especially when the report highlights that a third of dads have had to change jobs since becoming a father and another third are actively looking for employers who can accommodate their desire to be a hands-on parent. 
It seems that employers are missing out on retaining talent by not offering working fathers (and mothers) the flexibility needed to be both a good parent and a good employee. Developing a career too often seems to come at the cost of being forced to forego family life.  
This is particularly worrying when it impacts the parental relationship. As a couples therapist, I often hear one member of a couple protesting about the amount of time their other half spends wedded to their job. Passing comments made as an initial plea for more time at home, gradually develop into fierce rows about a lack of consideration for the family or feeling abandoned. It can leave neither person knowing how to break free of the dilemma – let down my partner, or let down my boss. These disagreements can often negatively impact the emotional wellbeing of the whole family, children included.  
The thing is, employers don’t see this. They just see the deadlines, pitches, proposals etc in front of them that they expect their employees to drop everything to deliver. The Daddilife report highlights that simply leaving work on time is one of the biggest points of tension. 
It’s not enough for employee wellbeing initiatives to solely focus on what happens during working hours. Employee wellbeing needs to take a holistic approach. If employers were to realise that supporting working parents has the potential to decrease their recruitment costs and retain top performers, maybe they’d give all working parents the flexibility they deserve. 

If you find yourself struggling to get the right work-life balance speaking to a counsellor may help.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Naomi Segal is founder of The Couple Consultancy, a specialist counselling and psychotherapy service for couples and individuals. Having maintained a corporate career for 20 years, Naomi understands how to work with couples trying to strike that crucial work/life balance and maintain a happy relationship alongside a fulfilling career.

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