Others: How Dads Can Model Positive Work-life Habits to Kids

Like many working parents everywhere, Singaporean dads cite work responsibilities (63%) and financial concerns (53%) as chief obstacles to spending more time with their children (MCYS, 2009).

Work-life Balance Can Be a Thorny Issue for Dads

work_STOCK12_01However, more surprising is that working dads seem to struggle even more than working mums in similar situations. An American study comparing fathers in dual-earner families to mothers in the same group found that work-life conflict reported by both fathers and mothers has increased over the last three decades. But the rate of increase was quicker for fathers than mothers: most recently, 60% of working fathers, compared to 47% of working mothers, said they struggle with work-life conflict (Galinsky et al, 2008).

Managing work-life balance can be especially complicated for dads. Many workplaces are still slow in coming round to accepting employed fathers with a strong family orientation, even if the organisations have gender-neutral work-life benefits.

But how fathers themselves are influenced by gender norms; how they define their sense of self-worth; and how they establish boundaries between their work responsibilities and expanding family roles; may also have a part to play.

Dads, You’re Still a Role Model to the Kids When You Work

As dads, how you spend your time not only shapes the quality of father-child bonds, but also shows your real commitment as father. By observing you, kids learn attitudes about work, family, and life. Whether you realise it or not, you are a role model when you work, when you are not at work, and in how you make time for family in the midst of everything.

Here are some tips for you to role model healthy work habits.

1. Teach them about the value of responsibility. When kids observe you work hard to support the family, they learn the values of responsibility and a positive work ethic. Teach them that it is not about having a fat pay check or buying an expensive car, but rather about consistently providing what you can for those you love and toward whom you are responsible.

2. Celebrate achievements and rewards together. When you finish a project, get a raise, or receive any kind of recognition, make your family part of the celebration. Your kids will understand better what you do when you are away at work, and also feel like they are a part of your success.

3. Bring your kids to work. For the same reason, bring your kids to Family Day at work. Alternatively, simply bring them to the workplace for an hour or a day, so that they do not feel excluded from the time you toil away at work, and get to see what you really do. You could even ask them what they think you really do at work! Another benefit is that your employer and colleagues will gradually see you as a parental figure in addition to your professional roles.

4. Recognise your work-style and make it work for you. As globalised work environments and technology blur the boundaries between work and home, it is important to manage these boundaries effectively.

One study identified three work styles (Kossek & Lautsch, 2008).Separators prefer to keep their work and home life completely separate; they feel more in control this way.  Integrators prefer to mix it up; for example, to look at work e-mails while at home and look at personal e-mails while at work. And, Volleyers are Separators for most of the year except at certain peak times when they become Integrators. Recognise your work style. Define and communicate your personal boundaries to others, whether it is learning to say “no” or prioritising the most important activities.

5. Create rituals for family time. Putting regular family activities into your calendar and sticking to them can remind you of your priorities and ensure that the balance does not always tip toward work, as is common. Rituals could include stopping by your child’s school for a quick bite; picking them up from school once a week; creating an after-work tradition such as reading or talking with them about what they learnt in school; setting aside a day to help them with homework; or having regular family nights.

6. Seek feedback and accountability. Talk to your family about when and where you are needed. Learn what makes them feel valued. Ask them how your efforts at work-life balance are faring. Watch for warning signs that things are off-balance. Ask your family to hold you accountable to keeping your priorities intact. And, be prepared to adjust routines and schedules as needed.

7. Manage workplace expectations. Speak to your manager openly about your work style, family aspirations, and preferences regarding work-life balance. Find ways to communicate these points consistently through your behaviour and with colleagues.

8. Know your benefits. Many companies offer tele-commuting, flexible working hours, paternity leave, parenting workshops, and other benefits. Check in with your Human Resources department and make sure you are taking advantage of your benefits.

9. Get any help you can. Subscribe to useful resources and tools that can help you create a work-life balance plan. A great one to start with is National Fatherhood Initiative’s resource page for work-life balance.


  1. Galinsky, E., Aumann, K., & Bond, J. (2008). The national study of the changing workforce: Times are changing: Gender and generation at work and at home. Families and Work Institute.
  2. Kossek, E. & Lautsch, B. 2008. CEO of Me: Creating a Life That Works in the Flexible Job Age. Upper Saddle New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing.
  3. Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (2009). Fatherhood Public Perceptions Survey. Singapore: Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.
  4. National Fatherhood Initiative (2010). Work-family balance. National Fatherhood Initiative, Maryland, USA.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 04-06-2012.

Categories: Ages and Stages

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