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Practising Effective Self-Care as a Busy Working Dad

Being a dad is hands-down the greatest and most important job you’ll ever have. It’s not, however, your only job. You still have to go out into the world and earn a living. Sometimes, the attempt to balance your professional responsibilities and your fatherly duties can become overwhelming. On your vast and endlessly growing list of priorities, your name may well be at the bottom of the list, if it’s there at all.

That may not seem like a problem — until it is, and then it’s a significant one. Neglecting to take care of yourself isn’t just bad for you, it’s also bad for your colleagues, your employer, your friends, and your family. Most important of all, it’s bad for your child.

This article explores the importance of practising self-care when you’re a busy working dad. It also provides tips for making it work in your hectic life, so you can be the best employee and parent possible.

Why You Should Care About Self-Care

Men may struggle with self-care or even the general idea that they need to take care of themselves. In many western cultures, the alpha male stereotype still prevails. Men have been conditioned to think that masculinity means being stalwart, strong, and unemotional. If he has any needs of his own, they always take a backseat to his responsibilities. 

He cares for others. He fulfils his obligations. He does not need, want, or take time for himself. The reality, though, is that practising self-care is neither a dereliction of duty nor an impugning of your manhood. 

In actuality, self-care is the intelligent and responsible thing to do. Like it or not, if you don’t give your mind, body, and spirit what they need, they’re going to break down. When you don’t manage your stress, cultivate your health, or nurture your wellbeing, you’re going to burn out. You may experience stress, depression or anxiety, or even physical health effects, both minor and severe. When dealing with these issues and impacts, you’re not your best self or able to provide the best care to your child. 

Working Fathers and Parental Leave

When you’re a working father, you quickly become all too familiar with the myriad social and economic barriers that can make it nearly impossible to negotiate between these two most important domains of your life. 

Just as persistent gender stereotypes define ideal masculinity as the unbending pillar of strength, they also cling to the false presumption of rigid gender roles, with women classified as the principal caregivers. This can put working dads in an especially untenable position in their workplace, even where benefits such as extended paternity leave, exist. Fathers report feeling pressured to cut their leave short or judged by leadership and colleagues when they take time away from the office to attend to childcare. 

Self-Care Strategies

Despite the challenges you may face when exercising your right to care for yourself and your child, it’s both worthwhile and essential. If your employer offers paternity or family leave, then you should take advantage of it with pride. Not only are you doing right by yourself and your child, but you may well be blazing a trail for a new organisational paradigm — one in which working dads feel comfortable, supported, and even celebrated for taking care of their little ones and themselves.

Unfortunately, not all employers offer leave to new fathers or lend support to working dads with older children. If it’s possible to transition to a workplace more welcoming for working parents, then the long-term benefits may well be worth the short-term hassle.

No matter what your particular work situation may be, however, there are many things you can do in your home life to facilitate self-care.

Cleaning and organising

As paradoxical as the concept of deep cleaning as a form of self-care, it can actually be the perfect way to begin nurturing yourself. Clean and declutter your space. Transfer space-consuming documents to your computer and shred the hard copies. If possible, get help with these tasks, hiring cleaners or finding shredding services, so you can enjoy the benefits of a clean space and have more time to focus on caring for yourself and your child. Above all, focus on creating a living space that is well-organised, functional, and calming.

Get still and get centred

Let’s face it: being a working dad is challenging. You have a lot of burdens to bear and you may be dealing with a lot of unresolved, or even unrecognised, anxiety. Taking the time to do some emotional inventory can help you map the fears and worries you didn’t even know you were unconsciously experiencing and find the path to mental clarity.

Once you’ve recognised the issues that have been distressing you, you can begin to formulate proactive solutions to resolve them. The result is a healthier, happier you, who is a more engaged and effective parent for your child!

Pamper yourself

This last tip is perhaps the most fun. Self-care means exactly that: taking care of yourself in little ways. This should include, at a minimum, spending time each day doing something you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, playing a video game, or watching a sports match. Try to set aside at least one day a week to engage in a favourite activity or a long-neglected hobby. Bringing your little one along from time to time is also a great way to enjoy some quality time and even share your interests with your child.

In addition, you should look for other ways to pamper yourself. For instance, you might up your grooming game by incorporating self-care products — such as eye creams, beard oils, and moisturizers — into your daily routine. You’ll both look and feel better. 

Being Your Best Self

When you’re a busy working dad and you integrate self-care into your daily life, you’re not only giving yourself a gift, but you are also giving one to your colleagues and your child. Self-care enables you to enjoy the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing you need to be your best self at work and home. Best of all, you are modelling for your child what it means to be a healthy, happy, self-fulfilled man.