Before Coronavirus Pandemic
At the start of the year I wasn’t worried about Dads and the Work-Life Balance. It was all hustle, work hard and always be on the grind.
That’s the mentality I started out with stepping into the professional world of work. Becoming a stepdad certainly refuelled “the success at all costs” mindset as I was navigating the waters of my early working life. Burdened with what I perceived as failure at that point. Earning the right to be step-dad was a responsibility that added renewed purpose to what normal life meant to me back then.
When the curtain came down on normality as we know it earlier this year. I couldn’t believe what was unfolding. Work felt like every possible thing that could go wrong just was. And at home, we were another household beginning that home schooling journey. Learning to redefine our family’s understanding of time! Work time, time off, time together, time alone. I realised it was time to hide the anxiety, time to bury myself.
Time to think fast, time to plan, time to press RESET and time to act. It was time to survive.
What have I learnt since Lockdown?
Recognizing the creeping presence of my own anxiety. I knew I needed to acclimatise and create some structure and establish a routine. Some self-preservation and protection just to avoid the brick wall and creep of overwhelming pressure that comes with feelings of failure.
There were moments where I’d feel waves, the emotion rising through me like warm water filling my toes up through my waist.
But stepping outside myself I achieved some things during lockdown. We had four “lock down” birthdays and celebrated them all stretching the celebrations to three or four days at a time. Decorations left up, balloons everywhere. We watched movies, had meals, played games, went for walks. Above all there were some really lovely family moments.
Despite the challenges and setbacks, as I watched everyone together, just being at home, getting through their routines, doing stuff and balancing the day to day demands. It was quite magical!
So what do I want from the work-life balance moving forward?
Above all, I love being Dad. It’s my pride, those three letters define me. As I’m sure they do for many Dads. There was a point in my life when nothing mattered more in my life then having my own family.
It is that moment of realisation where the chase takes on a new meaning. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about them it’s about us and embracing the new definition to my life. I want to be a better person.
I’ve always grafted, every job I’ve ever had. Three paper rounds as a 12 year old kid, cleaning the windows of my neighbours’ flats, you name it I did it. But lockdown reminded me that I need to do the best I can, just to be there when the kids need me, even if they don’t, I’d just like to let them know I’m there.
So, is it really possible to separate work from family when all your work is for the benefit of the family? That’s the real conundrum when it comes to dads and the work-life balance.
How is it working out?
As we embrace the daily demands of life, dealing with our own pursuit of happiness, I hope that my choices move our family forward together. Subsequently, I hope that our children develop a work ethic they apply to their lives, and embrace all the ups and all the downs with equal measure. I hope that separating the noise from the outside world becomes easy as they grow and the safety of home becomes the environment that shapes the confidence they take into the world.
Work life goals
During these strangely unbalanced and uncertain times, the balance of working and life has got to be about ensuring the kids are happy. I’ve lost count of the number of zoom meetings and chats our youngest has strolled into and just wanted to sit on my lap. Or my son has run in his boxers to grab something he’s just pushed through the office printer.
To be honest pre lock down I was really conscious of things like that that happening. Now, I just don’t care. This is who we are.
Have you seen that BBC clip of the government advisors’ interview being “bombed“ by his toddler daughter wandering in whilst mum unleashes panic to get her out of shot. In the process unveiling the staged backdrop of the interview to the world? If you missed it here it is.
Everyone has their own normal ours is less the traditional family stereotype. A Stepdad first, then my son came along, then married, and I’ve learnt to live in our 21st century family without a stereotype to reference. We’ve learnt to just make decisions and work through things together.
I take a huge amount of pride watching my wife take the lead as a work colleague. Women have had a tough gig throughout the ages. I love the fact that my two girls and my son can see Mum and Dad shine brightly in all that she does, trailblazing a path for them to follow – in a way of their choosing when they are ready to step out and take on the world.
What advice can I give on the Dads and the Work-Life Balance?
There is no one size fits all approach or rulebook to the rights and wrongs of doing this stuff. NO do’s and don’ts book of parenting’. But allow me to offer some of my own thoughts in the hope that I can offer one pearly ball of wisdom that someone, somewhere can benefit from.
- Firstly, enjoy every moment. there’s no stereotype for the right way or the wrong way of balancing work with life. Something that works for others won’t necessarily work for you. But if you’re family is your life that’s going to be the priority. If work or people around you don’t get that. Then its probably best to get out of there!
- Be the hardest worker in the room so you can start and stop at a time that works for you. Generally speaking, when you need flexibility. No rational person can argue with an unquestionable work ethic.
- Kids want to feel safe, let them know you’re there. Ask questions, talk to them. Take a look at the world through their eyes as much as you can, when you can.
- Cause and effect. Anxiety, pressure concern can be overwhelming. Training is a great way blow out and create that steam that will evaporate those feels. Its’ also a great way to think. If that’s not your thing, then talk, don’t tings build up. A large task is just lots of little tasks.
- Finally there is nothing wrong with being engulfed with and immersing yourself with your work. If you think the balance isn’t right or you’re being told the balance isn’t right ask yourself why that might be. Remember what it’s all for? Cause and effect. Everything has a cause and everything as an effect. Life is not a state of permanence. Like water life tends to constantly change shape and is constantly moving. We can’t control those thing’s but we can influence its flow and the direction of travel.
Life is hard – So choose your hand and pick wisely.
As the generations that had to deal with far worse time will say, “The grey clouds will pass and then the sky will be filled with the sun.”
Wishing you all great times ahead as you figure out Dads and the Work-Life balance.