Today we’re featuring a post written by Forge Member Alex Grodner. We loved Alex’s perspective on work/life balance as he’s a remote worker often traveling for his job. Alex and his friends have a podcast and blog called the Clueless Dads. We know there are plenty of mom blogs out there (and rightly so!) but we love hearing from the mindset of the dads too. They share personal experiences and stories as they learn how to be a better dad.
In today’s day and age, the local / Monday-Friday / 9-5 jobs are almost non-existent. The antiquated ideas of all families being a man who is the only source of income for the household and a woman who takes care of the children and home are long gone. We have turned a corner in society where families look different, have different priorities, and a different working/stay-at-home mixture. While many families, including mine, have decided that the women staying home with the child(ren) makes the most sense, that is not always the case. The idea of the stay-at-home Dads or both parents continuing their careers soon after the baby is born is starting to change the way we think about families and how they work.
The idea of having the entire family home to sit down for dinner every night is not very conducive to many jobs. I personally have gone from every week travel schedule to every other week (but very flexible). What I have found, especially while my wife is pregnant and home with a toddler, is that work travel is not easy and can cause many issues if not addressed. Below is a list of the 6 things that I have found that help find that right work/life balance.
1. Set boundaries when you are home
I would argue this is important regardless of whether or not you travel for work. Whatever expectations you set at a job will be assumed in the future. If you are the kind of person that during a busy time will working until midnight and be back on working at 6AM the next morning, more power to you, but don’t expect that will be a one-time thing. On the other side, if it is an hour or two every work night you are home to spend with your family or letting it be known that Saturdays are for football and not work, it is so important to set boundaries of when you will/won’t work (outside of “normal business hours”). I have found that few jobs will care as long as you are meeting expectations and getting your work done when you say you will/when it is expected to be completed.
2. Make sure the time at home is special
When I am home, I have found that doing “other things” during my non-work time – playing video games, working on side projects, etc. – are best done when my wife and son go down for their afternoon naps or go to sleep at night. I also make a strong effort to spend as little time as possible on my phone or computer, often leaving my phone in the other room to avoid the unnecessary distraction. Having those distractions take priority over spending time with my family, especially when I am traveling a lot, is just not worth it and I end up regretting it when I am out of town.
3. Find a special activity
My son Bryant and I have our special activities that only him and I (and sometimes the dog) do. Spending some time at our local zoo (it’s 5 minutes away, hassle free, and we have a membership), cooking together, and going on runs with him in the jogging stroller and the dog’s leash around my waist are just a few of “our” activities. This is not to say that my wife cannot come if she wants to, but more times than not she finds this as a great time to do things that she wants to do…without a toddler and crazy puppy running around the house.
4. Give your significant other a break
As mentioned in the earlier comment, the activities that my son and I do give my wife a chance to do whatever she wants and has not been able to do while I was out of town – get a well-deserved nap, clean up around the house, run errands, etc. In addition to getting us out of the house, doing some of the things that my wife does while I am out of town (and especially the things that she doesn’t or can’t do) is something she greatly appreciates. Doing the bedtime routine/morning routine, turning cleaning up the house or dog poop in the backyard into a fun activity and having my “big helper” assist (which more times than not he is the opposite), and taking my son to school on my way to a coworking space ends up being a much-needed break for my wife.
5. Have a checklist of to-do’s before leaving town
Trying to get items on the “honey-do list” or things that you have put off and need to get done around the house is so important to try to do while you are in town. Many times it is very easy to forget/ignore some of the issues because they are “out of sight, out of mind” for you, but your wife and child(ren) have to see those things every day. Whether it’s cleaning up pet’s poop/pee or mowing the grass that has become a little too over grown, it can really make a difference and when you get home you aren’t reminded of something else that you wanted/needed to get done.
6. Communication, communication, communication
My wife and I share a Google calendar where I put my flights so that she knows when I am leaving and when I will be back home. This can obviously change due to flight delays or last-minute work changes, but if that happens I try to let her know when I know. I have found this gives my wife something to look forward to (a much-needed break) and it also keeps from the “so when are you going to be home again” question every day. In addition to keeping my wife updated on when I’ll be home, technology has made it extremely easy to video chat regardless of what type of technology someone has. I obviously can’t video chat with them every night, but it’s a nice way to see my wife and son and for them to see me.
Being on the road so much has not been easy, but I have found that these things – maximizing time when I am home, setting work boundaries, and constant communication – make it a little bit easier.