How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Father’s Daze: 13 Dads Reveal Their Struggle

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As I’ve written about before, there is something happening in the lives of fathers and their careers today. While we define ourselves differently than we did 50 years ago, dads of all sorts are finding themselves in this position across the country, and beyond, of redefining who we are with a simple but profound question:

How do I balance my work and my role as a father?

It used to be emotionally aerodynamic to lack feeling. Jettison the love and the pain, and what did you get? A life filled with work.

But what’s it like for us now? How do we balance work and fatherhood? Rather than write a boring, academic theory about the why and how, why not ask some dads for themselves.

Here are nine dads and their response to the question of the day…



Whit Honea: Honea Express

“The line between work and fatherhood is blurry in these parts. Being a dad is my main focus, and writing about being a dad is my main source of income. I tend to teeter between too much coffee and the occasional power nap—balance is that spot in the middle that time flies by. Also, dinosaurs.”



David Vienna: The Daddy Complex

“I don’t have time to balance fatherhood and work, so I make time. I work on projects late at night and on my lunch breaks to free up time each morning and evening to play ninjas or superheroes with my boys. And I remind myself that, no matter how tired I am, they’ll only be kids once. Sleep is for the weak, anyway.”



Buzz Bishop: Dad Camp

“I make my work about my kids. An adventure with them is a blog post for later, or a bit for the radio. But a funny thing often happens while I’m out living life with my kids, the drafts build up and I write less. And that’s not a bad thing, because I probably write a little bit better when I write less. As for the ‘real work’ that I do, I’m lucky. My radio career gives me time to take to school and drop off.”


Creed Anthony: Tales from the Poopdeck

“I’m a teacher, coach, director of the Drama Club, and a bunch of other stuff too. The extra curriculars became too much. I loved doing them, but needed more time with the kids. Now instead of being the baseball coach, I’m a soccer dad, dance dad, gymnastics dad, and sometimes just a crazy play around dad. I missed coaching this year, but have no doubt I made the right choice.”



Lance Somerfeld: City Dads Group

“As an at-home dad (who works part-time) and primary caregiver, each day is a struggle to squeeze in productivity during the hours my son is at school so I maximize the time we’re together when he’s not. Fortunately, I’m able to be present at pick-up/drop off, hit the playground after homework, eat meals together, and pick him up when he gets hurt. These years are so important for us to bond. Consequently, there’s always more work to be done, but intentionally draw a line in the sand because one day soon he won’t need me as much.”



Vincent Daly: CuteMonsterDad

“I take breaks when serious fun is in order. It’s a daily battle to make the time but there are moments when everyone wins and that’s enough for a lifetime of memories. Also, the devil made me do it.”



Pete Fazio: DadAnd Blog

“The only thing I can do to balance work and fatherhood is that the computer has to go away when my kids are awake. I don’t ever want to hear “Daddy’s always working.” Of course once they go to sleep and my wife is asleep it’s time to burn the 3am oil.”



Seth Burleigh: 40 Weeks Later

“For me, it’s about taking advantage of all the little moments, even if it means just lying with her (and trying not to fall asleep) on the playmat/carpet/floor. The computer stays shut more during the weekends and the phone further away. I’ve written about it before, but the hour after getting home until bedtime is my favorite part of the day, my ‘Golden Hour.'”



Brandon Klinetobe: The Funny Conversations

“I’ve had two severe/massive strokes in the past 3 years and I could care less about work when it comes to my children. I am a father first and everything else comes second. My children are my driving force to be a better person, husband, and father. I have called off ‘sick’ to just be home. I have gone to every game, every play, and every pretend tea party to be with my children.

I was put on this earth to be a father and to be a good father, to guide (and stumble) with my children through life.”



Sam Christensen: Dork Daddy

“I think the key is to remember what it is you’re working for. It keeps me motivated to work hard, but it also reminds me that every minute I spend away at work is a minute I don’t have with them — and that they don’t have with me. I chose my career specifically because it enables me to be the sort of father I want to be. That’s my job, being a dad. It’s who I am. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. Everything else in this life is just a means to that end.”



Aaron Gouveia: Daddy Files

“As the sole breadwinner, I have to work full time. But I negotiated with my company to work from home three days a week. It’s not ideal but at least I get to put my oldest on the bus, see my youngest during the day, and have dinner together. Beats leaving before they’re awake and getting home after they’re in bed because of my long commute.”



Jim Lin: BusyDadBlog

“You do what you have to do when you have to do it. There is no formula for balancing work and fatherhood. Every moment is a conscious decision. Every priority is a judgement call, and you have to weigh the cost and benefit of every work request, along with every parenting moment as it comes. That’s the only way you know if you are making the best decision for your family. Sometimes that business trip will lead to bigger and better things (i.e. more money for ballet lessons), but sometimes that recital will be the one thing you will regret missing when she’s too big to care about tutus. You need to assess and reassess this every time. There are no absolutes. Only the Sith deal in absolutes.”



Carter Gaddis: DadScribe

“There is no balance. Every minute I’m at work, I feel like I’m missing out on something significant. Which is irrational, I know, because they’re in school anyway. And I know we need my salary to make ends meet. Yet, it’s visceral, a foreboding that monumental things are happening in their lives in spite of (or, worse, because of) my absence during those periods of daily separation. I try to make up for it with morning “rituals,” like always waking them up around the same time and spending a few minutes with them talking about their dreams from the night before or how they expect to spend their day. I read to them at night before bed. We go on evening bike rides after supper, sometimes, or just play in the back yard until bath time. On weekends, we do fun things like going to a nature preserve, or a theme park, or just hanging around and doing nothing. I feel their absence during the weekdays, though. Feel it. I wouldn’t mind this much, except I think they feel it, too. And there’s nothing I can do to change it right now. It’s not balance. It’s making do. And it just doesn’t feel right to me.”


Some would tell you that we work because we aren’t equipped to father. Others might say we are lesser parents. But we’re here. Now. We’re in the trenches. We’re winning and losing alongside our partners. We love and feel and look to the future. We yearn. We want more.

Because, as physics would demonstrate, things spinning and in motion seem to be more stable.

Can we have it all? Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ve already got it and we’re just trying to figure out what to do with it. And define what that gibberish known as “all” actually means.

Because all looks a helluva a lot like this to me right now. And a couple more hours of sleep.

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16 Responses to “Father’s Daze: 13 Dads Reveal Their Struggle”

  1. Ben says:

    It’s a constant struggle with me. My kids are my priority but I also have to provide for them. So I try to take breaks when working at home to do something special with them. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes…at least they know that Dad hasn’t forgotten about them.

  2. Dada Mike says:

    First the White House now this! Excellent. Off to share.

  3. Jason says:

    Mark Merrill wrote an excellent blog about being present, not balanced. In it he said, “Today I want to encourage you to stop worrying about achieving balance between work and family life and instead begin striving to be present.”

  4. Martha says:

    I’m not a dad, but I am a working mom (a single working mom until a recent reunion with my son’s father). Yesterday, I cried my way to work because delays meant he couldn’t eat breakfast at home as usually, was hungry but had to wait to get to school and eat with the kids. He fell and bumped his face (cutting his inner lip on a toy), and the clean up and calming down took a bit of time so we were running late. He screamed at cried when I drop him off (having a bit of a separation anxiety phase form mommy lately). This article reminds me that i’m not alone in having trouble balancing this. I call it “mommy guilt” but perhaps, even though I am very aware of the equality of dad’s, I’ve been using the wrong term. Perhaps, “mommy” guilt is an unfair phrase. I know dad’s could say daddy guilt, but I have never heard one say it. It’s a hard balance for the working parent. This blog hit home and it’s refreshing to hear these dad’s takes on how to balance. Beautiful!

  5. Brent Almond says:

    Brandon Klinetrobe, you’re my hero. On all kinds of levels. Keep on keeping on.

  6. Randy Garbin says:

    Being a good dad means, first and foremost, being a responsible adult. I want to be there for my kid as often as I can, but if the bills don’t get paid, nobody benefits. When I do spend time with the kid, the time is all hers. That’s what she’ll ultimately remember the most.

  7. Earl says:

    This has always been one of my largest challenges. My children are teenagers now, but I missed a lot in their very early years because I was working 80+ hours per week. It’s great to hear how other fathers are balancing their work lives with their family.

  8. Work/life balance is a constant struggle, and it intensifies as they get older. My teens have me running non-stop. For example, I was up until 2am last night working on a project with my oldest. I still had to get up this morning and head to my corporate gig and later tonight I may record a podcast. Such is life for the 21st century dad grinding to be all he can for his family, his work, and still finding time to explore entrepreneurial passions.

    Good stuff Charlie!!

  9. Bridgette says:

    My husband and I are so fortunate to have an unbalance in our favor. My husband works 3 nights a week (12 hour shifts) and the rest of the time is all family. He is always around for our children. If they want daddy time he will put off sleeping during the day to spend time with our 3 kids. I feel like we have it figured out at a young age. We don’t need fancy clothes or brand new cars, we have each other. Granted we’ve gotten some lucky breaks along the way; ie our beautiful house with a huge swimming pool and canal in the back for fishing and boating, but that’s because my husband worked hard during school and continues to at his job. Bottom line, our family is blessed to be happy and healthy, and together. It is most important to see the big picture. Forgo the material riches, pay the mandatory bills and spend your one chance at life with the people that mean the most!

  10. It’s nice to know we’re not alone.

  11. Thomas says:

    David, we are certainly not alone. Sometimes it does feel like that though. This is why I created ParentsNearby – an iPhone and Android app to connect like-minded dads living nearby. The pre-launch phase has just started and dads from around the world are signing up for the free app on

  12. Rayne says:

    My husband works from home, passing on having a storefront for our business, so that we could stay home with our daughter and be here for her instead of, as it has been mentioned before, leaving before she wakes and coming home after she’s in bed. He stays home handling 80% of the business and 100% of our four year old on the three days a week I’m out working a second job. We make less money and wind up working more hours (putting in the overtime between 11pm and 4am) but it means that in between writing lines of code or designing a new logo, we can be ninjas, princessess/royalty, superheroes, play soccer, have a time out for tea parties…and while the laundry may pile up and the vacuum goes into therapy for abandonment issues, we have all become experts at hide and go seek, Candy Land, and don’t even try this family at Go Fish… 😉 Call it balance or whatever you please, but between work and being a daddy, I’ve gotta say the husband has done pretty well 🙂 Kudos to all the amazing dads giving their all!

  13. Han-Son says:

    Really nice insights. Two years on from this and here (in the UK) we recently saw the Modern Families Index published which showed dads would take as much as a 40% wage decrease to spend more time at home. At a time where wages aren’t exactly growing like hot-cakes that was pretty telling. We gave a short interview to the BBC on it too if anyone’s interested to hear more.

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