Paul Ryan On Fatherhood And The Speakership

He insisted on weekends with his family when he took the job. Here's how that's working out.

WASHINGTON -- Before Paul Ryan took over as House speaker in October, he had conditions.

If the Wisconsin Republican were to take the job, he wanted the support of certain factions in the unruly House Republican conference. He wanted rule changes making it more difficult to overthrow a speaker (which he didn't get). And he wanted weekends off. Weekends, he said, would be for him and his family.

"People with these kinds of responsibilities, I think it's important just for their own sake, for their own health, for their own mental health, and for their own family well-being, you've got to get that work-life balance right," Ryan told The Huffington Post during an interview in his ceremonial Capitol Hill office.

"One of the reasons why I never wanted to be in elected leadership," Ryan continued, "is because here, in Congress, elected leaders have always been expected to travel on weekends."

Previous inhabitants of the speaker's office were empty-nesters, and they could travel to members' districts and help them raise funds when Congress wasn't in session. "And I just wasn't going to do that," he said.

"People understood that," Ryan added. "But I had to be emphatic about it. And I had to very much guard that time."

Ryan, 46, is trying to chart a more family-friendly speakership, one where he has time with his children, 14-year-old Liza, 13-year-old Charlie, and 11-year-old Sam.

Ryan actually does do some work on weekends. Sometimes he attends events on Saturdays, and he may spend time with constituents in Wisconsin on weekdays when Congress isn't in session. But Ryan continues to enforce his choice to sacrifice time on the road as the speaker for time at home as a dad.

"I really focus on that family time and preserving it," Ryan said.

In many ways, his schedule is pretty much the same as it was before he took the speaker's gavel. Except now, when he goes home, there's a security detail.

"So that's definitely different," Ryan said.

When he's home, Ryan tries to be active with his kids. He's teaching his middle child how to mountain bike, and he mentioned playing bocce with the family and grilling. His wife, Janna, calls it "'stirring the pot.'"

Ryan's father died when he was 16, which, he said, taught him lessons that included staying healthy. It also impressed upon him the importance of being there for his children.

"Losing my dad, it just makes me want to make sure I'm there for my kids," Ryan said. "It makes me want to make sure I'm very deeply involved in their lives."

Time away from his family can be tough. He said he misses a lot of basketball and volleyball games because he's in Washington during the week. His absence is made even tougher because his kids want him around.

"Until they're in their mid-teens, I'm told, they still love you and still want to be with you," Ryan said.

"I'm told a few more years, that's going to change," he added. "And so I don't want to lose this moment."