The idea of a world existing where dads are as present in their children’s lives as mothers is something many of us envisage, just as the former US president Barack Obama pointed out in his 2015 State of the Union Address, that childcare is ‘not a woman’s issue but an economic priority for all of us’. And while statistical evidence prove that we still have a long way to go, there are lots of fathers holding it down, juggling the demands of busy careers all while being active, present fathers.
Thanks to the ever changing family dynamics, it is now becoming a norm to have households with two working parents as several studies indicate. As the average cost of living continues to soar, conservative roles of women as caregivers is becoming increasingly impossible to sustain. This means more men are becoming open to helping out with tasks traditionally reserved for women – from household chores to child care. In fact, a recent Pew Research study shows that since 1965, fathers have tripled the time they spend with their children, and 57 percent say parenting is extremely important to their identity.
Be a superhero busy dad this Father’s Day
However, fathers – just like mothers – also find it challenging to balance work and family life. This was revealed in the Modern families index report, which found that millennial fathers in particular, show more appetite than mothers to consider a pay cut to work fewer hours so they can spend more time at home. The report goes on to show that many of today’s fathers find it challenging to maintain a healthy work-family life. This is particularly the case when frequent business travels comes in the way for a happy famy life, resulting in both mom and dad feeling consumed by guilt.
As Dr Laura Kastner, psychologist and author of ‘Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens’, this is a harmful and pointless exercise. “Remember that parents telegraph to their kids their feelings, spoken or not. Our brains are open Wi-Fi systems. If you feel guilty, sad and despairing, they will know it. Moreover, perhaps they will feel even more insecure with your travel, even if you are terrific at communication upkeep, keeping it to a minimum and spending great times with them when you are home,” says Kastner.
Father’s Day tips for busy ‘globe-tropping’ dads
For busy, traveling fathers consumed by guilt, there are precautions they can take to avoid being often separated from their children, says Andrew Grunewald, Flight Centre Business Travel brand leader. One such is to take the family along on your business travels and create mini ‘bleisure’ holidays.
Grunewald shares five tips (below) for busy fathers planning a business trip with the family this Father’s Day:
- Follow the rules of the game
Make sure you check with your employer whether he or she is onboard with the fact that you are planning to take your family along. It is also wise to check upfront who will foot the bill for the expenses if you’re not travelling solo, he advises.
According to Grunewald, while many companies may cover the costs for days their travelling employees are away, as well as for round-trip flights, employee often have to foot the bill for anything associated with personal time off. “Expense reporting can get complicated, though, if travellers don’t define when business ends and leisure time begins and establish clear processes to separate the two,” he adds.
- Take some time off
When travelling with your children and family on a business trip, define in advance how you’ll divide your time and the family’s expectations. “Even though they will have to accept you aren’t always available, take a few days off to enjoy the destination with them and participate in activities your children will enjoy. If they are old enough, involve the children in planning and ask them if there’s anything special they would like to see,” says Grunewald.
A good idea, he adds, is to consult your travel management company (TMC). “They will be able to help you balance your work itinerary and your bleisure trip, ensuring the experience is seamless from start to finish.”
- Make sure everyone is covered
Another important point to consider is “whether your company travel insurance policy covers personal days,” he says. “If not, consider taking out additional cover for the extra leisure days.” As Grunewald points out, most South African companies will have an annual policy in place with travel insurance consultants (TIC), covering staff travelling locally and internationally. This includes benefits like emergency medical and related expenses, hospitalisation cover for pre-existing illnesses, as well as for lost or stolen luggage.
- Pick your destination wisely
If your next business trip takes you to a high-risk, high-stress destination where you’ll be caught up in work around the clock, it’s better to leave your family at home. Other questions to determine whether the destination is suitable are: How long and strenuous will the journey be? Will you make multiple stops and change planes frequently? Will I change time zones?
“Keep in mind that a child who wakes up at 6am in South Africa will wake up at midnight on his first night in New York. Talk to your TMC for advice on whether they can assist with timings and flight options to shorten the journey. However, if the logistics seem overly complicated, it might not be worth your while to take the family along,” Grunewald explains.
- Consider child friendly accommodation
Considering that not every hotel is designed for children, parents need to make this check-list a priority when traveling with their young ones. “Without neglecting your company’s travel policy, make sure you do your research and choose a hotel that not only accommodates children and has the right amenities in place to make their stay pleasant,” says Grunewald.
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