Having it All as a Man

You thought that men already had it all? Well no, not really.

Many men are operating on the manual given to him by his grandfather, which exhorted that he should push, strive, work hard and provide for his family. As a child he was unlikely to have guidance around giving value to the joys of parenting.

Fortunately, we are starting to challenge the outdated framework of fatherhood and men are embracing the opportunity to more fully participate in family life.

Since the 1960s hospitals in many western countries have permitted men to attend the birth of their children. Yet, it has taken us several decades to pass laws that permit men to take paternity leave after the birth so that they can actually spend time with their children and support their partners. In most parts of the world we still have a long way to go in order to extend this leave so that it can truly have a significant impact. Some countries, including the US, still have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents but fortunately others, like Sweden and Norway are well ahead of the others and setting shining examples of the benefits that this can bring.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the inspiration he has taken from the Scandinavian countries that are leading the way and has committed to reform parental leave legislation in the UK from 2015. While it is wonderful that such reforms are currently underway we still have a long way to go before men have an equal entitlement and feel it is acceptable for them to take their full amount of leave. Now is the time to start transforming employment frameworks to better support modern families.

In my experience of working with men who have burnt out, many state that high price they paid for the endless hours of overwork was not only the negative impact this had on their health but the family relationships that broke down as a result. Years of late nights at the office and weekends working away meant they missed meals with their wife; bedtime stories, sports events and school plays with their children – even family holidays.

If you share in your kids’ lives and give them a chance to take part in yours, you will have a much better relationship with them … If you are struggling to juggle your home life with your career commitments, both can suffer. Part of the solution may be to treat time with your family as a priority. When you’re facing an avalanche of appointments, book time to spend with your family – put it in your work diary. Richard Branson

For both men and women to truly ‘have it all’ we need flexibility in the way we work so that we can take better care of our own needs and those of our children. This is vital not only to help prevent burnout of the workforce but also to prevent the burnout of our children. Many parents who overwork and overschedule themselves force their children to do the same. In failing to identify their own need for self-care they fail to identify the needs their children have too. If you identify with your own burnout tendencies spilling over to your children, consider how you giving to yourself will in turn benefit them.

Any time you find yourself struggling to listen to your intuition and prioritise self-care remind yourself that in order to truly give to your children you first need to give to yourself. Remember that children live what they learn. Be kinder to yourself and you will automatically find it easier to be gentle with your children and encourage your children to be gentle with themselves too.

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