Actress Elizabeth Banks tells New You, “I balance it by always putting my children’s health and safety first. Then I feel OK to go and do the job I love. It’s important to remember that I face the same challenges as many other working parents out there.” Banks and her husband keep busy with their two young sons, Magnus and Felix.
Working parents face challenges like how to get homework done and reading charts signed during the after-work rush to get dinner on the table before bedtime. “Parenting is a challenge any way you slice it,” Banks says.
But she doesn’t think dads feel as conflicted as moms these days. When it comes to balancing work and family, Banks confesses, “I don’t think dads do it as well as moms, quite frankly, as I don’t think there’s any pressure on them to balance anything in their lives when it comes to parents being at work. […] I try not to feel that pressure, either.”
I don’t know about that. “Balance” may not be a buzzword for men like it is for women, but I do think men are working harder and more conscientiously at being good dads. I think Banks is right about the pressure though. Women get it on both ends: Be reliable and successful at work but don’t drop the ball at home; you still need to nurture and cook healthy food and take your kids on Instagramable outings. Men can get away with less and be revered as great dads. I’m shlepping kids all over town every day and I go unnoticed. My husband takes the kids out for a day of errands and he gets comments and approving looks as if he’s a hero.
But when it comes down to brass tacks, my husband and many of my good friends who are dads are just as intentional in the way they balance work and home. My husband carefully plans his vacation days around scouting trips he wants to take with my son. He texts with my kids throughout the day to stay in touch during busy times and when he was self-employed and could set his own schedule, he volunteered in my son’s classroom every week to read with students. Yep. He was a “room mom.”
One of my friends runs a study abroad program for theater students in London and is gone for long stretches during the summer. He blogs about his experiences so his kids can see what he’s up to and as soon as his oldest son turned 16, he arranged to take him along, which helps to mitigate the strain of his long absence on his family.
High profile software executive Max Schireson recently resigned from his job as CEO at MongoDB to spend more time with his kids. Commuting from California to New York made it hard to be involved with his three kids. Shireson’s wife, a doctor and professor, was picking up a lot of his slack.“I love her, and I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel,” he said. “I should not continue abusing that patience.”
I think this reflects the reality that families face. Through the ebb and flow of career and kids, ad hoc parenting has to meet the needs of the family. Both men and women should — and, in fact, are — finding ways to balance the demands of work and family. Schireson, still working full time as vice chairman of his company, writes:
“Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me. A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was was by stepping back from my job.”