Being a new parent to an 8 month old little girl, I wanted to share my experiences of managing both my home and work life. My wife and I work full time which means that our days have quickly had to adapt to the challenges of managing our careers and being hands on parents.
I am fortunate to be able to tell a positive story on this; and have reflected on the factors that make my situation positive. I have certainly stolen good habits that I’ve seen from others, and hope that others may find use or interest in this. I certainly remain on the lookout for more good habits to copy !
I understand that plenty has already been written on this topic, and nothing I say here is new. These are simply personal reflections.
I remember watching a video of Jeff Bezos, where he challenged the term “work life balance.” He instead encouraged us to think of work life “harmony”. I have found this to be an invaluable mindset shift. The more I enjoy work, the more I enjoy home. The below points are, in my view, the most significant factors which have helped me move in this direction:
- Mindset of employer: I cannot emphasise enough the importance of a supportive employer. I am grateful that my current employer is a leader in providing support to parents. When I started my current role I was told by nearly all partners (without me asking) that I should feel able to manage my day as I see fit to meet my family responsibilities. There is no downside to this message – it simply built on the trust I had developed. I contrast this to a previous experience when I was told by a director I worked with that trying to be home to be able to see your child in the evening was an unrealistic expectation. Not surprisingly, I chose to leave that team before starting a family.
- It goes both ways: Having a supportive employer only works if I honour my commitments. This means I too need to be flexible in meeting obligations and continuing to deliver. Beyond this, having a supportive employer means I want to deliver to an even higher standard and push things further. It’s a mutual relationship of trust and respect.
- Use of downtime: In my job there are inevitably busy and less periods. While I was always cognisant that work is unpredictable, I have learnt non-work is now even more unpredictable! This means periods of downtime need to be put to good use, to build in the extra layer of flexibility to help deal when you get that unexpected phone call and plans change !
- Peer support: Asking for advice from and being open with peers is invaluable. And I define “peers” in a wide sense to include colleagues of all levels and clients. When my daughter decided to arrive prematurely I had to drop certain assignments mid sentence. I explained the situation to my clients. The only thing they responded with was their very best wishes. My then team were also an amazing support.
- Keep dating: With all the effort devoted to nursery drop offs, pick ups, bed time routines etc, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that we remain a couple. Making the effort to keep dating reinforces the message that we’re a team and keeps things enjoyable.
Clearly not every day is a dream, and there are some tough moments / days. And, there are things I could improve.
I am, though, pleased to be able to report a (so far!) successful story. There are no doubt going to be some further and harder challenges ahead, but I’m optimistic about being able to overcome them.