What impact has being a working parent had on you? I find the whole idea of a “working parent” very interesting. I was working before I became a parent, which meant I had to fit fatherhood into an established rhythm of working. I imagine for people who fit working into an established rhythm of parenting, it must be a different perspective. Overall, I believe it has made me more effective, since there is cross-pollination of skills between the two, but it can be stressful at times, even with ruthless prioritisation and “first things first” time management. I am proud to be a working father.
Did you always know what you wanted life after having children to look like? I had some kind of idea from the family (of eight people) that I grew up with, seeing how my parents managed everything – working full time in senior roles, and using childminders as support. I was keen to get on and have children from my mid-twenties really, bored of just going out to nightclubs etc. and my perspective on having children was “Bring it on!” – and happily I was able to become a parent. There were some surprises in co-parenting, not just from my wife’s approach, but also from my own. Certain habits pop up when you are tired.
What’s the best thing that parenting has taught you? I learned that love is limitless. Before my second child was born, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough love to give them – I already loved my wife and son with all my heart, there wasn’t anything left to give, or so I thought. I just felt for some reason (daddy brain, perhaps!) that my heart was at full capacity and it might not be able to stretch itself enough to accommodate a new baby to give my love to. But it did, in heaps, and so parenting has taught me that love is infinite; to be shared far and wide, and lavished on those you love dearest.
What happens when work and home collide? How do you cope? I do my best to prioritise, since I can’t be in two places at the same time, so often I to say no to a work meeting or a school event. It just isn’t possible. No-one is going to say it’s ok or give you permission, you have to keep your own counsel on that, and find some kind of balance over the long term. I talk all the time with my wife, we plan the meals for the week, which drives our shopping list, we discuss who will be home first to cook dinner on which day, and we take a forest walk together every weekend to ensure we are connected on it all.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself when you began juggling kids and working? I started out as a quite a smug parent really, “Look at me, going out to lunch with a sleeping baby”, or reading the Sunday newspaper at the playground while my toddlers were on the swings and roundabouts. You feel under pressure to show the world that you can manage it all, juggling parenthood with work and life, in perfect balance. If I could travel back in time, I would grab and shake myself by the shoulders and shout in my smug face: “Get up, look at them, enjoy them!” Your children grow up in the blink of an eye, try to savour every moment.