How I Balance Work and Fatherhood
Balancing act - it's not about gender
In all my years as a panelist and speaker I have never been asked how I balance work and being a Dad. I have however seen this question being asked to women, including times it has been scripted for me to ask in my job as host. To be honest it took me a while to think why this question was asked to women only. I thought it was a given that working Mums would be asked this as standard, but the more I spoke and facilitated in the leadership, talent and diversity space, the more I thought, how come we don't ask men this question about how they balance work and fatherhood?
Last night I was part of an online Twitter conversation targeted at women in senior leadership roles in education. This was the first question that came up and it did have some push back from a number of women who still wanted to know why this question was being asked.
A valid question?
Personally I still think it is a relevant question, as a lot of working Mums do want to hear about shared working experiences in leadership. They do want to hear about how others have managed this role and the expectations of balancing a career and motherhood. Whether single or in a partnership. The other reason I think it is relevant is because I think a lot more people need to start asking the question to men as well!!
It is also a question that will become even more increasingly relevant in the west as equal marriage laws may see more LGBTQ partners asking similar questions so that they can learn the lessons from those adults who have to balance leadership, careers and the demands of a young or growing family.
So I thought I would lead by example.
Put my money where my mouth was so to speak.
When our first child was born both my wife and I had high pressured demanding jobs. Me in finance and Her Majesty in sales. We had a child minder who would take care of our child. We had a cleaner who could look after house. [Tweet "And we managed to dance this dance somewhat effectively."]
After the birth of our second daughter however we decided we wanted to change things up a bit. We did not want to be at the behest of a boss who would question why we, mostly my wife to be honest, would not be in work because we had to cater for a sick child. Or for me to explain why at month end I would miss some times because my children were performing in assembly or at a sports day.
I took the leap into running my own business and my wife decided to stay at home and focus on the children. This gave us the freedom to not only run our own business and shape our own destiny but to be able to available when our children needed us.
Work and fatherhood - A hard line to balance
Running a training company, delivering speeches, workshops and coaching was a perfect fit. With the addition of technology such as Skype and other live streaming software this has made it even more convenient to be able to deliver quality content without ever having to travel as much as when I first started.
As in any business we have had our ups and downs, but I have been able to balance work and fatherhood because I had a conversation with my wife and family about what the priorities were. We had to make sacrifices. Sending our eldest to a private secondary school was not cheap and meant some holidays abroad were sacrificed. Turning down overseas gigs because sports days and performances were already in the diary were a challenge, but money can never replace the joy on your child's face when you are sitting front row at their performance and waving back at them. Or them being embarrassed as we scream and cheer them along at a sports day and not just supporting them but their best friends too. (Yes we are those parents!)
I also decided that while I was at it, I wouldn't work on Saturdays. Ironically I grew up not working on a Sabbath, similar to the Jewish faith, so making that transition and applying it to my business, even though I have not been religious for a while, was quite easy. Yes I am tempted of a Saturday morning to get up and check emails and instant messages, write speeches and do business plans, but I don't.
I refuse to run seminars on those days too. This is family time. When my wife and kids get me. Present, free of KPIs, Sales Projections and all the other business management issues I must deal with.
I am fortunate enough to have the support of an amazing wife, who also happens to be the MD of one of my companies. (In fact she is the MD of both but all in name). In the same way she supports me, I am 100% behind her as well when she coaches, speaks and deliver workshops.
The best reward
I would rather walk away from business if it affected the quality of life I have with them. Yes that has meant in some circumstances I have earned less than I could have, but seeing my kids develop and being present for them and my wife when they need me is priceless. So there you have it. [Tweet "This is how one man balance work, fatherhood and being a husband."] I put my family first knowing that I have the skills, talent, experience and backing of my family that when I do work, I bring my A game without guilt or fear of missing out on them.
So firstly how do other men balance work and fatherhood? Can we ask this more of men when talking about running a business or leading organisations?
Secondly, for women, although it can be pain in the arse to hear that question, just remember other ladies stepping into leadership don't know and need the voice of another women to show how it can be done.
It's not so much the question, but rather that we ask all working Dads and Mums, instead of making the assumption that balance is something only a challenge to working mums. Work and fatherhood is also a challenge.
Repurposed from LinkedIn
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Dates for the Diary
November 12th European Commission DG GROW
Informal talk on how to deal with sexism - 12.30 - 1400
November 25th Council of the European Union - Corporate Event
How to deal with sexism and harassment in the workplace
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