I was talking to a former colleague the other day, and he mentioned a column I wrote a few weeks ago about the pressure felt by working fathers.
He's in his early 30s, and he's working hard at his job so he can "get ahead" and support his family financially. However, he also wants to help his wife raise their five children.
Trying to succeed in both aspects of fatherhood stresses him out at times, but he's determined to succeed.
Boy, can I relate. And, based on other responses to that column, so can many of you.
In that piece, I talked about the report "Beyond the Breadwinner: Professional Dads Speak Out on Work and Family." According to the report, almost 85 percent of fathers feel pressure to be both a financial provider and an engaged parent. Three out of four dads also worry that their jobs don't let them be the kind of dads they want to be, and more than half say work/family balance is a source of stress.
A reader named Jason wrote in an email that he was glad to read the article and hear "our" side of the story.
"I recently moved from a job that really made it hard for me to be there for my family to one with a lot of flexibility," Jason wrote. "In fact, that was one of the main reasons I took this other job.
"While my kids are still young — 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter — I know now that I can be the baseball coach and be there for all the games or dance recitals. I might make less money for the time being, but if it means I can spend more time and more quality time with my family, then that's OK with me. I bet a lot of guys would do the same."
I'm sure you're right, Jason. The hard part is accepting less money when you're struggling to make ends meet, but perhaps that's a trade-off more of us should consider.
For example, a reader posted a comment online that her husband had a career in high-tech business management for 20 years and had struggled to be a "happy, calm, involved dad."
"So much was demanded of him," she wrote. "Business is about profit, not people, which makes it inherently difficult to be family-friendly. He decided that he could either be successful in his career or be successful as a father, but he couldn't be both.
"He finally decided to switch careers and now teaches high school. He teaches where our kids attend and has summers off. The overall time demands and pressure are so much less. He is more calm, happy and available for his family than he has been for years. We have less money, but he has more time to be a father, and our kids are thriving because of it."
Another reader, posting online, wrote that the long hours and travel required by many global companies make it difficult for fathers to keep up with what is going on at home.
"It gets even harder when you get home and you are already burned out from work, but everyone at home is relying on you to be happy and helpful," he wrote. "So many support groups and resources for stay-at-home moms, working moms, yet I see very few resources for dads."
I have the utmost respect for moms of all kinds — after all, I've got one of my own, and I'm married to another — but it does seem like they are better at working together to resolve the challenges they face in their daily lives.
I don't know. Maybe they've just been at it longer.
Regardless, I believe that if men really want to be better parents — whether that means providing for their families financially or emotionally or both — they need to realize they're not alone in their struggles.
I'm sure many of you have found ways to overcome your own challenges as working fathers. What has worked for you that might help someone else? Please let me know, and I'll share your ideas in a future column.