work life balance for dads

3 Reasons Working Less Will Make You a Better Dad

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As a kid growing up in the country, minutes felt like hours and hours felt like days. However, with all the busyness as a dad today, my days feel like hours and my hours feel like minutes. As our kids grow up, doesn’t it seem like we get busier and time goes by faster until we’re finally feeling burnt out? I know I’m not alone in this feeling. One survey says 77 percent of American employees reported at least one instance of burnout in the last year. Why?

We’re burning out because we aren’t living with the right priorities.

We’re burning out because we aren’t living with the right priorities. Rest should be our priority, but instead of seeking work-life balance for dads, we’re seeking busyness. We’ve learned from research that rest makes you a better athlete, worker, and human being. If rest can make you a better person, it can make you a better dad. Here are 3 reasons working less will make you a better dad.

1. Rest inspires you.

Research has shown over and over again that downtime creates insight. Have you ever been stuck on something at work only to take a break from it and figure out the solution? Rest matters as a dad. Sure, the number of hours we sleep also matters. But getting some quiet time outside of normal sleep hours is necessary. After all, you’re more likely to be grateful for your family if you take time to rest and to notice all the good around you. 

Rest often has a way of inspiring me toward my priorities. Maybe you rest by avoiding scrolling social media after 8 at night. Or maybe it’s by writing a daily gratitude list. The point is to take a moment of time to regroup so as to not take for granted your role as a dad. In the unhurried time of slowing down and being grateful, you’ll find the inspiration that will change how you engage with your kids and make you a better dad.  

2. Rest ignites you.

If you’ve ever felt exhausted trying to work, you know trying to “push through” and get a job done can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. Rest recharges you. Research shows downtime will help you be on when you should be on. As dads, we can fall prey to the busyness of work and family life. Constant interruption from devices and busyness leave us feeling stressed out and constantly overwhelmed. 

What you give attention to wins. Scientists call it Attention Restoration Theory (ART), which is the idea that spending time in nature can improve your ability to concentrate. Psychological Science described an experiment about this theory. Subjects were split into two groups. One group took a walk on a wooded path. The other group took a walk through a busy city. Both groups were then given concentration tasks after their walks. What did they find? The group that walked in nature did 20 percent better on the task. The nature path also won the next week when researchers switched locations using the same people. Researchers learned it wasn’t that one group of people simply performed better. Whether they walked through the woods or not determined how they performed.

If walking in nature is that powerful, I think it’s worth considering how much rest we need and how much attention we should give to shutting down. I think we’re looking at fatherhood incorrectly. We’re stressed and overwhelmed because we see being a dad as just another thing at the bottom of a long to-do list. Work, pump gas, clean house, cook, fix the toilet, be a dad. Instead, what if playing with your kids were equally stimulating to us as walking in the woods? It may not be yet, but it can be—and it should be. We need to transform our mindsets about our evenings with our kids. It’s not something we have to do; it’s something we get to do. Release everything else in life for these few short years and make being a dad your priority. 

3. Rest is irreplaceable.

We think we can just work harder. But, rest can’t be replaced. Whatever you were going to do for that extra two hours in the evening is never that important. It can wait. Tim Kreider says, “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets… it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

We must learn as dads to be on when we’re at work and be off when we’re off. But, each responsibility—work and family—takes our focus. We can’t pretend work takes focus and family doesn’t. Family takes focus too. We can’t shut down when we arrive home. When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done and be the dad your kids need. As I think about it, Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry. Even though there were urgent needs all around him, he seemed to take time to rest (Mark 1:35).

Sound off: When was the last time you truly felt rested? How did you get that rest?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What can we do as a family to have fun?”