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Working Fathers Face Challenges

Content courtesy of Tribune Media Services

Balancing work and family is usually an issue directed toward women. But working fathers certainly are faced with the same dilemma - how to be successful at work and at home. Men may even have a more difficult time with this, as many are the primary breadwinners of the family, but stress of providing for the family and spending too much time at work can often result in unneeded tension at home.

Tom Stern, author of "CEO Dad: How to Avoid Getting Fired by Your Family" (Davies-Black, $19.95) knows first-hand the downsides of having a workaholic father.

Unavailable fathers, he says, affect their children's lives as well as their marriage. But, finding that balance isn't as difficult as you may think.

"There isn't enough empathy about what it is to be a dad; what they do is taken for granted," he says. "Don't answer the phone during dinner, treat the playroom as important as the bedroom, accept that you're not in control. So much of business is getting ahead and having the most influence, but your family doesn't care what your title is."

Difficult Pattern

Stern explains that working dads often succumb to a cycle: Dad's workaholic ways create distance between him and the members of his family. Meanwhile, Dad secludes himself from the family feeling as if he's failing as a father. He then becomes isolated, difficult to live with, and a symbol of rejection in his mind, Stern says.

"There are so many reasons for this CEO dad-itude: it's self-inflicted and societally perpetuated," he adds. "Society says 'the man is in control and powerful,' and it fulfills this patriarchal notion that goes as far back as the Middle Ages. But it's also self-inflicted in that he's decided his real value is providing."

Staying connected with family is actually not all that hard, he says. The idea is to prioritize your family before getting into a work-driven cycle. Rest assured, however, that if you've fallen into that trap, it can be rectified.

"What can you do every day to keep your heart alive, listen and be compassionate?" Stern asks. "It's like watering a plant. When you're all ego-driven, your heart just dries up. Over time, the heartless businessman burns out."

Lessons Learned

Stern adds that his personal experience with both being fathered by a workaholic and eventually becoming one himself has helped him realize the need for parents - not just dads - to be there for their kids emotionally and physically. However, even the most unyielding businessman can have the best of both worlds.

"It's all tied into how you measure success," he explains. "The real bugaboo that's hard to defy is the core of family life. It's not the car you have, the grades your kids get, it's the quality of closeness you have with your family. Closeness is the fuel human beings need to maintain humanity, connectiveness, a sense of purpose."

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