As an American, there is a distinct onus placed on the fabled dream of having it all. That means having a family, a substantial vocation, and all the adorning possessions that come along with such a life. But is it possible for a father (or a mother for that matter) to have it all, or is it just a pipe dream?
In large part we are dependent on our definition of “having it all.” What may be the world to one person may be extraordinarily dissatisfying for another. So for the sake of this discussion, I will focus on the concept of the “American Dream” (work, family, status, and all the trimmings).
Being a man whose wife has sacrificially given of herself to stay home with our children, I can relate to the idea of providing for a family while maintaining a lifestyle. In fact, I wrote an article on the subject of work/family balance several months ago because of the personal nature of topic. Recently, however, I was again intrigued by the idea because of a posting by the White House, in which it discussed the Presidents intentions of opening a dialog on the subject of balancing the demands of work with the demands of the family. In the post, the President determined that there was a need for a forum that could offer suggestions on increasing the flexibility of the workplace. In large part, this was in order to adapt to the needs of the family. The President concluded in saying that this was necessary “so that working Americans did not have to choose between their careers and meeting the needs of their families.”
It was this closing statement that gave me pause. Are there really times when we don’t have to choose between our families and our careers? I may not be able to speak for the entirety of the American workforce, but as a relatively young father, I have been faced with this dilemma on several occasions. Having won some and lost some in my decision-making, I would be remiss if I said that I could have remained indifferent. If I have concluded anything from my time being a dad, it is that there are few circumstances in which sacrifices don’t have to be made. My sacrifices just happen to be in the form of diminished sleep!
Now my intent is not to paint a bleak picture of pursuing your dreams at the expense of your family, or visa-versa. However, I do think that as a country, we are very good at romanticizing away the complexity of our lives. The notion that we can embark on a tireless pursuit of “what we want” without there being an opposing affect on those closest to us, is certainly short-sighted.
But be encouraged! In the next few weeks I will provide some examples of how dads can work towards their goals while avoiding the trappings of becoming an absentee father. And no, this doesn’t mean operating on two hours of sleep, or at least not all the time!