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A Dad’s Struggle to Juggle Both Career and Fatherhood

Father’s Day is just days away, and this week a few Houston dads have graciously contributed their thoughts on parenting. Today, an anonymous guest blogger reflects on his struggle to juggle both career and fatherhood. 

Note :: I am writing this post anonymously because I want to protect my employer and myself from any ill will. My company does do things to make parenting easier. They provide paternity leave, and I have heard voices within my company trying to create change. This post is only about this working dad’s multi-year journey to understand who he is.

Jeevun {pronounced “g-vun”} is a word my parents called my sister and I throughout our childhood, and still call us today. The best translation is “spirit, breath, or life.” That sums up how my parents see their kids. We are their world, they care for us, sacrifice for us, and love us as much as humanly possible.

Fast-forward to today – I am in my late 30’s, a father to two of my own Jeevuns: a three-year old and a six-month old. To round out the family, my wife is an absolutely fantastic woman. She is someone who thrives professionally and maintains a solid family life. We have a comfortable home in-town, in a good school district. Unfortunately, we have had to make sacrifices in order to achieve this life, proving that having your cake and eating it too comes at a price.

I have spent considerable time reflecting on how I feel about my family, the way a high-pressure, male dominated profession expects you to sacrifice personal time, and the perspective I have that has allowed me to keep my sanity, marriage, and family intact.

I started a job at a Big-4 consulting firm the same time my first child was born. It was not an easy balancing act, but my wife and I made it work. When we came home at night, we did our best to unplug from work {successfully about 25% of the time}, to play, feed, and bathe our child. We split parenting duties evenly, as being a dad is my most important job. My average weekday was to work from 6:30am – 6pm, come home and be a dad from 6pm – 8pm, and then log back in at 8pm to finish off lingering work. On the weekends I wake up at 6am or duck out during naptime to keep working.

Then a few years later, we were blessed with our second child. Now, as opposed to having one parent manage our first child while the other started their night work or did chores {dishes, make lunch}, we have two kids that require constant attention. It has become even more challenging to balance the demands of fatherhood and work. Do I reschedule my conference call so I can read books to my son? Do I push the deadline of an urgent deliverable so I can sing lullabies to my daughter? Will I get a chance to hold an uninterrupted conversation with my wife? I knew this daily grind would be unsustainable.

I asked leadership at my firm how they juggle family and work. The common response was to get a nanny to help at night. This works for many families, and I respect that and I am happy for them. However, I only get 2-3 hours a day to spend time with my Jeevuns. I want to cherish the few moments of innocence, pure joy, curiosity, and even growing independence that I get to witness first-hand being their parent. There had to be other options.

I wanted to broaden my perspective, as there is inherent bias in only asking leadership at my firm how to balance work and family. I reached-out within my network, and talked to two senior people, one who had retired from a C-level position at a large oil and gas company, and another who was running start-ups in California. My conversations with both of these gentlemen were my turning point. It forced me to look at who I am and evaluate how I prioritize my time. By having other “successful” people tell me that it was okay to put my family first, it truly gave me “permission to be happy.”

Deep down, I want to be a source of social change at my company. I want to leave at 5:00 pm, and not log back in later at night. I want to tell people that I need to pick up my kid from school because he is sick. I’ve worked at my company for four years, but I am likely on my last leg. Since my second child was born, I have found it harder and harder to juggle work with my family.

Here is the headline of this entire blog – It is all a choice. Once I realized that my leadership’s suggestion for balancing work and family was not right for me, I was mentally free of stress I carried for years around promotions, raises, and bonuses. Our family might sacrifice vacations, perhaps we move to a smaller house in a less desirable neighborhood, but either way our overall happiness as a family is going to increase if I am able to spend more time with my wife and children.

One day, I will die. When laying on my death bed, I will not be thinking about an awesome project, or a killer PowerPoint deck. I will be thinking about my Jeevuns and my wife {and hopefully some grandkids}. These early moments of our family will give some of the most precious memories I will have with my kids. I don’t want to rob myself and my family of those memories because I chose the wrong expression in providing for my family. My time, attention, and presence are so much more valuable to my family than my career. Perhaps in 12 years when my kids are embarrassed by me, I’ll reprioritize, but until then I am going to be family-focused.

For dads out there reading this blog, I hope this article is totally irrelevant to you. I hope you have found your happy medium between family and work. Also, I recognize not every family will be in the position to trade out a vacation or house for more family time. But for dads who are not happy with the time they are spending with their family and can make material tradeoffs, ask yourself, “When I die, will I have enough of the memories that really matter?” If the answer is no, consider taking a journey to prioritize.

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2 Responses to A Dad’s Struggle to Juggle Both Career and Fatherhood

  1. Kim June 15, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

    Thank you for the beautiful piece. Women often talk about the work/life balance and work-mom guilt, but we sometimes forget that many dads go through the same thing and the peer pressure can make it much harder for them. I always thought I’d be the super mom who could do it all, but once I had my LO, I realized that while I wanted the career, I didn’t want to sacrifice time with my family for it. It was then that I knew I wanted to build a career at a place that would support my family being a priority and allow me the flexibility to leave and turn off when I needed to. I’ve been very lucky to work for people who are so supportive of my family – especially being in the oil and gas industry! I hope you’re able to find the right fit for you.

  2. Just a Dad June 29, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    Thank you to the writer. This piece came to me after I made a huge decision to change my career path to be more family focused. It was a very difficult decision and one which means our family will have to budget and we may not have the nicest things, biggest house, or the greatest retirement egg. I agree that our children’s youth is a precious time. First, we get to enjoy the innocence and wonder in their eyes as they see and understand the world. Secondly, they need both parents to help them and nurture their development into the people they will become.

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