For my wife and I, having our first child was a brilliant moment in both of our lives. February 10, 2019 was a heck of day, actually, so was the night of the 9th!
From this point on my wife and I embarked on a challenging year with new and diverse obstacles. My wife and I agreed that she would take the role of primary carer and I would go back to work full-time. We were fortunate enough that she could take 12-months off to spend that time with our son and the three of us have loved how everything has turned out.
Fast forward 12-months and a few more grey hairs, we’re suddenly in 2020 and my wife is moving back into the workforce part-time whilst our son goes to daycare 3-days / week. I knew that this would be a new challenge and I’m sure it still will be!
I found that this has changed my perspective on the phrase, “work-life balance”. This is something that gets spoken about on a daily basis in the life of a recruiter and it means very different things to each and every person. For me, my challenge was going to be,
“how do I maintain my output at work, whilst not neglecting my 1-year old as well as supporting my wife as she re-enters the workforce?”
She was navigating her own challenges, anxieties and potential insecurities. I can only imagine what would have been going through her mind before she went back to work for that first day. Think about coming back to work on a Monday after a holiday and feeling a little out of touch with things…. Try being out of the office for a whole year! My role as the primary bread winner for the family had also evolved and now incorporated daycare routines a couple of times a week as well as taking on more of the cooking duties at home. This brought about my own stress and anxieties, albeit, to a lesser degree!
The key to success for me was communication and consistency.
Communicating with my managers around what my wife’s work schedule was for the year ahead meant that we could change the structure of my days throughout the week without it affecting my performance as a whole. I let my managers know what would work for me and what would be ideal, how I could manage any work arounds and I asked if they had any suggestions if there was something that I couldn’t see a practical solution for. I must say, my managers were exceptionally good about it all and helped me wherever they could to make it work (although, we are only 1-month in!).
Without communicating your challenges and expectations to your direct manager, you will make it extremely difficult for yourself to be successful. From my experience, people are understanding and try to accommodate other people’s circumstances in order for the overall business to succeed.
The same can be said for consistency.
In my situation, we put in place a routine of coming into work late on a Tuesday morning as well as leaving early on a Thursday afternoon. This allowed me to spend quality time with my son, whilst also taking some of the stress and pressure off my wife as she settles into the working mum routine. My routine not only allowed me to get through these new obstacles, it also helped my team and the wider office. People are getting used to me being out of the office at those times and understand that if they need me for something, they can organise to speak with me outside of those hours.
As I said earlier, we are only 1-month into this new chapter of working dad life, although I must say that I haven’t found it as challenging as I thought I would. I am more disciplined with my time on Tuesdays and Thursdays especially, as I have fewer hours at my desk to get things done and this is actually a good skill to practise. As more and more demands for our time creep into our lives we need to be strict with where we invest our energy, we also need to focus on the two areas that I mentioned above: be clearer with our communication to the stakeholders that it affects and settle into a consistent routine or drum beat. This is the same for anyone changing their work routine, situation or schedules, not just for new dad’s!
Both of these areas will allow you to handle most of your challenges at work and for me, it has helped with the transition into the “work/dad/life” balancing act.
Isaac Dufficy – Executive Consultant, Group Solutions