Seven years ago, our former CEO, Dean Fischer, held a meeting for parents or parents to be, called Pops for Parents. He and other leaders at WMP with children stood before the group, and told us their tips and tricks to managing a consulting lifestyle, while still being good parents and spouses. He reiterated a few different times that “there is no reason you can’t have it all”. Many of the leaders had spouses that stayed at home, and only a few had working spouses.
That stuck with me throughout the years, and now that I’m a parent (with another little boy on the way), I find myself trying to live the very lifestyle that was described by leadership several years ago.
My experience as a working father is challenging not because of the fast pace, ever-changing client needs and high growth of our company, but more importantly because I also have an extremely successful and driven wife, who is also in consulting. Watching how hard my wife works, and what a great mother she is, inspires me to step up my “Dad Game”.
Our life is best described as chaotic – especially if we are both traveling. We have had to ask our companies to help us out, and turn down travel that occurs on the same days (duh – no kiddie kennel for our little boy!). I have been described as a workaholic in the past, but over the past couple of years I have learned to fit more and more into the time that I do have at work. When it is time to pick up my son from daycare, nothing gets in my way to see him. When calls get scheduled over bath time, I skip them or politely explain that I’m not going to work during those times. There are situations that require me to make sacrifices as a father, and it is my job as an employee, husband and dad to make sure I can live with those sacrifices. Some things I’m willing to give up, and others I’m not. Everyone has their own set of priorities, and for me, being a good and engaged father is at the very top. I had a great example from my parents, and intend to pay it forward.
I started jotting down things that have worked over the last couple of years, to remind myself to do certain behaviors more often. For the working Dads out there who also have a working spouse, I might have some tips that can help you out:
- Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. It is so tempting to beat yourself up every time something goes wrong (scheduling conflict, you forget something important, you got mad over something small, etc.). The reality is that this life is managed chaos, and we are all doing our best. Forgiving yourself for small transgressions is important for your happiness.
- Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Your spouse is doing their absolute best. Nobody is perfect, and in a situation of two people that are both trying to work and be a parent, there will be mistakes. Remember that being understanding and kind when someone has had a bad day can go a long way. Happy parents make for happy kids.
- Remind yourself what is important. There will be a day when it will be too much for both of you. You’ll look at each other at the end of the week and wonder how you will move forward. Something didn’t get done, someone’s feelings are hurt, etc. That is an indicator to back off of the work aspect of your life a bit, and focus more on the family. Focus on what is important, and remember that this life is a journey you should enjoy. Some people keep happiness journals, others use religion. I use humor and lots of teasing those around me to keep things in perspective. Find your happiness valve, and use it!
Coming full circle here – I went to a White Sox game with Dean again a few months ago. He declared before we headed into the game that “if I died right now, nobody could say that they had a better life than I did”. What an awesome statement. The next morning, I planned to tell my wife about this, but as we stood in the kitchen with our son making breakfast, I thought the exact same thing about my own life. Instead I smiled and thought that maybe he was right, maybe you can have it all.