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A Man's Perspective: The Best Ways to Balance Work and Family

The frequently overlooked male perspective on work-life balance was in the news recently when the Wall Street Journal published interviews with 25 male CEOs. When asked about how they maintain their family lives while running companies, their answers ranged from acknowledging that they had a poor work-life balance to describing complex scheduling systems that helped them spend enough time at home.

Male corporate leaders have noted in a number of press interviews that female CEOs often receive questions about how they juggle their jobs and their home lives. However, questions for male CEOS, however, rarely broach the topic. "As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO,” Max Schireson, former CEO of MongoDB, wrote in a blog post in 2014. Schireson left his job that year so that he could stop commuting between California and New York and spend more time with his family.

Here are seven ways that CEOs manage their family and work lives:

1. They schedule well.

Rearranging schedules, red-eye flights, and wearing business suits to children’s soccer games are all part of life for CEOs who try to maximize work and family time. Sid Mathur, an executive with HIT, told Time magazine that no matter where in the world he is for work, one condition of his job is that he has to be home every weekend. He also eats pancake breakfasts with his family every Sunday and enjoys a regular indoor camping night with his daughter.  

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Sometimes schedules require back-to-back work and family events. Freddie Mac CEO Donald Layton remembers getting off a plane from a business trip and driving directly to his son’s school field day. Eric Poirier, CEO of Addepar, sets aside time for his young daughter, whether it’s taking her to the pediatrician or being home for bedtime, on a calendar that all of his employees can see.

2. They know the value of important family events.

While missing a few of your child’s 15 baseball games over a season may not be a big deal, not showing up for a graduation or other significant event can have detrimental effects on a father’s relationship with his child.

Mark Weinberger, CEO of EY, skipped the World Economic Forum in Europe to move his daughter into her dormitory at a California university. He told Time magazine that if he hadn’t done that, his daughter might not be as understanding when he couldn’t attend a parents’ weekend or other program at her school.

3. They combine work and family time.

When there isn’t enough time for some CEOs to separately perform their job duties and be with their families, they have found ways to bring the two together. Rob Mathias, CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations, North America, said in a Time magazine article that he takes one of his daughters, who is “very intellectually curious,” on his work trips.

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At Robb Fujioka’s startup Fuhu, which makes tablets for children, the conference room has a ball pit, and employees regularly bring their children to the office. Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels International, takes his girlfriend and children on business trips. “I realized, the way my life is structured, if you don’t include them at times in with your business, your relationship is going to suffer,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

4. They sacrifice.

High-pressure jobs require time and travel, and some CEOs make personal sacrifices to make sure they can dedicate enough time to their work and their families. H. Fisk Johnson, CEO of S. C. Johnson & Son, gave up two time-consuming hobbies—deep-sea diving and flying planes—after he became a father.

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare, keeps a good balance by using a point system he created to score how much time he spends at work and how much time he spends with his family. He told the Wall Street Journal that the system has worked for him for 25 years, even though at times it has meant cutting off work calls or turning down dinner offers to be with his family.

5. They eat breakfast with their children.

Some CEOs noted that they made regular breakfast dates with each of their children. Rob Johnson, CEO of Enjoy Technology, had 64 consecutive before-school breakfasts with his son, and the streak was only broken when his son went out of town with friends. For YP CEO David Krantz, mornings are reserved for breakfast with his teenage daughter.

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6. They stay in the moment.

Several CEOS talked about making a conscious effort to put away their phones while they were with their families so that they could give their full attention to the people around them. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, told the Wall Street Journal that work-life balance is “a struggle,” and he tries to focus on the small things, such as making sure he’s actually watching his daughter’s lacrosse games instead of using his phone. “I strive for the few moments that I’m doing something with them that I’m actually present,” he said.

7. They leave their jobs.

Several CEOs made the decision to quit their jobs when family needs became too great. Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, got a wake-up call in 2001, when his son was diagnosed with cancer. Bertolini told the Wall Street Journal that he realized then how little he had been with his family and how his wealth and connections couldn’t help his son. Bertolini quit his job and lived in his son’s hospital room for a year.

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