It's working for Scott Behson, PhD – Management Professor, Author, Speaker and Consultant
I work especially hard for them because so many of my students are the first in their families to go to college and/or come from less-affluent backgrounds. Their working class immigrant parents sacrificed a lot for these young adults, and I take this responsibility very seriously.
I’m a pretty driven person, so when I was preparing to become a father, and in the early months, I was hyper-vigilant about everything going right. Over time, I learned to relax, enjoy the ride, be present, and let go of the things I couldn’t control.
My research and academic work in work-life balance for fathers pre-dates my becoming a dad, but mixing the lived experience of the work-life juggle with my professional work has added lots of nuance and perspective into my work.
In terms of how I work- I’m a lot better able to distinguish between the IMPORTANT and the less important, and prioritize accordingly. I’m also lucky that my career allows for a lot of time flexibility, so I’ve learned how to use this flexibility wisely to succeed in my career and be the kind of present father I’ve always wanted to be.
My prior book, “The Working Dad’s Survival Guide” was focused on helping fathers balance work and family. My new book, “The Whole-Person Workplace: Building Better Workplaces Through Work-Life, Wellness and Employee Support” is focused on how employers, managers and HR professionals can better support employees with their work-life challenges and, as a result, find long-term, sustainable success.
It feels great to merge my two worlds- business school professor/consultant with being a busy working parent. Blending these two perspectives is very rewarding.
I read somewhere that the two most important relationships in terms of impacting your parenting are your relationship with your spouse and your relationship with your manager/employer. We need both sides- employer and employee- to help navigate work-life challenges.
Lots of companies that would have never allowed for flexibility got forced into it- and, for the most part it turned out ok from a business standpoint. I hope these employers retain flexibility in some form (part-time, as-needed, hybrid) going forward instead of reverting to old habits. What a shame it would be to have to live through 2020-2021 and not learn any lessons!
Also, for a long time, employers have told employees to keep work and life separate so that nothing comes before work. I think there’s much more recognition that this is a very flawed perspective. Work and life are inextricably linked. If someone is struggling in their lives- due to problems with child-care, elder-care, finances, time, health or wellness, they won’t be as productive at work. And if you don’t feel engaged and validated at work, this negativity spills over into your personal life. This past year, we didn’t just see into people’s homes and living rooms, I think we’ve also seen that a lot of us have struggled and need more support for employers, managers and colleagues.
That’s very kind of you to say.
Thankfully, my wife, son and I all get along great, so we were able to help each other through. One thing that helped us was our daily list. Every day, we all had to do something: physical (a walk, a workout, etc.), social (a phone call, zoom happy hour, etc.), fun with screens, fun without screens, and family time (dinner together, a round of Scattergories). Being intentional about our time helped us cope. I know so many others had it harder than us, so we made sure to be generous and try to help others.
I’ve always been a social person, and I really felt the lack of being with friends, being on campus, traveling, and going out to eat with friends. Now that I can do these things again, I’m so much more appreciative of these experiences- and I’ll never take them for granted again.
Finally, fancy white-collar folks like me had it comparatively easy. So many had to work at hard, physical jobs through the pandemic- with all of the stress and anxiety of getting sick and bringing the virus home. I’ll never look past essential workers again, and want to ensure that great workplaces are extended to everyone- not just the already privileged.
Thankfully my job as a college professor gives me lots of time and place flexibility, and I’ve been able to leverage this to make sure I can be around for my son- especially when my wife works evenings and weekends during a show. So that really helps- and is why I hope more employees are offered flex going forward.
My wife and I also made it a point to get and stay on the same page about our parenting responsibilities (a big mistake I see lots of new parents fail to do) so that we’ve been true partners in managing the load. Now that our son is 16, lots of things are easier and less-stressful- even if we spend a lot of time driving him to and from activities and friends.
First, in terms of my long hours- I tend to have episodic overwork (think of the rhythms of a semester)- a really intense week or two surrounded by times that are more normal (or even relaxed). So, I get time to recover and, thankfully because I love what I do, I rarely mind the intense times; they’re energizing.
In The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, I include an exercise that has proven useful to me over the years. I have always blocked out a few hours per week for the full range of my priorities- enough exercise, social time, couple time, family time, down time, etc. Then, I protect this time like I would for an important meeting. This means in the Spring through Fall, I play tennis three times a week- exercise and time with friends. This means date night every other week. Etc.
A lot of appearances are still slated to be online, so I’ll have less travel than I normally would have had. This makes things easier. An hour book talk, workshop, or webinar from my home still has impact, but doesn’t require two days of travel around it. I also targeted a summer book launch so that promotional activities wouldn’t conflict with my semester.
Again, I’m thankfully at a point in my life where things are easier. My wife and I have a great partnership and my son is old enough to take care of lots of things himself. And perhaps after so much time together, my family will welcome some time apart!
At this point, parenting a teenager is very different than parenting when my son was younger. In some ways for the better, and in some ways it’s more challenging. I was tragic at dating and social life in high school, and had bad early experiences with sex, alcohol and other substances. But now I have to talk about this stuff and help guide my son? Difficult. (The less I say about the stress of teaching him to drive, the better!)
Also, while my son and I still have a great relationship, he’s more independent- which is good- but I miss him sometimes and I fear I’ll be a bit heartbroken when he goes away to college or moves out. I’m trying to enjoy as much time with him as I can until then (without being too clingy).
Every kid, every family, every dynamic is different, so don’t let other people boss you around with too much outside advice. If you love your family and are truly working hard for them at work and at home, you are 95% there. Your kids won’t remember small mistakes. They will remember if you were a constant loving presence in their lives.
That said, here goes! Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page- and check in frequently. Really take the time to enjoy little things. Don’t rush through story time to get the kid to bed. 15 fewer minutes of sleep for them is worth the memory and bond you’ll make. Do lots of stuff together. Be human and vulnerable- you’d don’t need to project infallibility. Listen. Take lots of pictures along the way. Support other dads. Vote for candidates and support organizations that truly support working parents.
Finally, my wife came up with this amazing tradition. On birthdays (and days like Mother’s and Father’s day) the honoree gets woken up with presents and cake! Even if it is before school or work. This gets the special day off on the right foot!
I’m not sure I have ever had a quote-unquote mentor. Men who paved the way as business academics in work-life, like Brad Harrington, Stew Friedman, and Jeff Hill are my professional role models and friends. I’ve had influential teachers and professors in my life, especially Bruce Tracey. I’ve had important friends. And of course my parents. But I don’t think I ever really had a single person to look to. Instead, I found people who could guide me at various stages for different things.
I am sooooooo committed to the students at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where I am honored to teach and lead the undergraduate program in human resource management. I am proud to go above and beyond to help them launch into their careers successfully, with the skillset and, most importantly, the Whole-Person Workplace values so they can have a positive influence on many lives. I’ve spent lots of time mentoring, pairing up students with graduates, and seeking opportunities and resources for them. I work especially hard for them because so many of my students are the first in their families to go to college and/or come from less-affluent backgrounds. Their working class immigrant parents sacrificed a lot for these young adults, and I take this responsibility very seriously.
As a working parent, I never expected _time management_would be so hard and __embracing the chaos___would be so much easier.