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DADult Life | November 17, 2018

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My daughter convinced me it was time to change jobs

Work-life balance

The FOMO is strong with this one.

Dads often speak about the fear of missing out and it’s only natural. Most are dumped back at work after two weeks with their new baby – and that’s if they’re lucky – so making those precious family memories is reserved for the evenings and weekends.

That much was, and is, certainly true for me, which is why I try to be as present as I can be during that time (part of the reason I’ve not managed to write anything in weeks).

Admittedly, working in London had been increasingly less appealing for some time. I’d been a commuter for close to three and a half years. Four to five trains in the morning and the same again on the way home, usually riddled with delays and cancellations – and all while surrounded by people whose apparent lifestyle choices prohibit them from personal hygiene. But a man’s got to eat, right?

The pregnancy made the commute even more noticeable, particularly as the due date drew near. I was forever on edge, phone by my side, awaiting THAT call. I envisioned it would be something like this.

But despite a false alarm during a wedding, I was beside Jenna when that moment happened, finding myself shook awake at 4am for the hospital dash.

When I went back to work after paternity, I didn’t feel whole. Frankly, I didn’t want to be anywhere but beside my baby girl and Jenna. I adapted, an unfortunate case of having to, heading to Chelsea day in and day out, often writing about work-life balance but not actually experiencing any of it myself. The irony.


Jenna had the opportunity to be with Roma all day every day, while I was stuck hopping on and off trains, having strangers grinding on me as though the driver had started to play slow jams over the tannoy. I wanted to be at home, doing what I could to bond with and help both of the ladies in my life for our new chapter as a trio.

Earlier this year, my journey honestly drove me to the brink of despair. It genuinely took all my self-control not to start screaming wildly like a wounded beast, fist clenched to the sky, as the train departed the moment I arrived on the platform. And that was on the way INTO the office – the working day hadn’t even started and I felt drained beyond belief.

 

“For the sake of giving my daughter 100% and holding onto my sanity, I needed to leave.”

 

What impact was the stress of the journey having on me? Was it worth battling so far to work each day if it was going to put me in an uncharacteristically foul mood? Was the negative energy going to cling to me like Roma grips the remote control after turning the TV off while we’re in the midst of watching a film?

I want to be around for as long as humanly possible, mentally and physically, treasuring each second, minute, day, week, month, year and decade as a father to my girl, for the rough and the smooth. Was that likely if I was being ground down by my working life? If I’d been met with any rough before I’d even got through the front door, how was I going to deal with any mini-me meltdowns or challenges?

It was time for a change.

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I knew I had to quit and move on. For the sake of giving my daughter 100%, being nearer and holding onto my sanity, I needed to leave.

So I started job-hunting. I found a role within driving distance of the home we were about to move into, which crucially meant: NO MORE TRAINS! Trying not to get my hopes up, I applied and before I knew it, the interview was done and I’d been offered the job. I started not even a week after we moved into our new pad (the other reason it’s taken me so long to write anything new lately – also our WiFi didn’t work for three and a half weeks; what’s good, Vodafone? Remember how you still charged me for that shit?).

Now I’m two months into the post and I already feel different. Each morning I’m excited to get into the car without the burden of public transport, complete the day and then race home (figure of speech – I obey speed limits at all times) to the girls.

And on the nights that they’re not home, it also gives me a chance to get some personal time, whether that’s making the most of Netflix without having to factor in Hollyoaks or Little Baby Bum, or going to the gym. Ohhhhh, yes, the gym! We’re back in business with a new place to train following the move. That in itself has been a game-changer that’s mentally revitalised me no end too.

Between the new home, changing jobs and Jenna going back to work, as a family we now have a routine in place, which has really helped bring some sense of order to the delightful chaos of having a baby.

I know first-hand the vicious circle that work and family life presents. You need a job and money to support the family, however, working gets in the way of spending time with the very people you want to take care of. It’s a term that Working Families and Bright Horizons have called the “fatherhood penalty”.

Results from a fatherhood penalty study showed half of dads feel stressed by their uneven work-life balance and a third said burnout is a common issue. And it means that seven in ten would put childcare ahead of their job or a promotion, while 47% want a less stressful role to balance demands of family life.

Sounds familiar.

My advice to anyone in the situation is have an open discussion with your partner. Tell them what’s on your mind and what you’re feeling and from there you’ll hopefully be able to make a decision that best suits you and the family on the whole – even if that means time for pastures new.

Who knows, a chat with your boss (if you have one) could always work wonders and you may not need to look elsewhere. As the saying goes: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” So go get – hopefully you’ll be able to tip those scales in favour of the work-life balance you desire.

Comments

  1. As someone who took similar action (I quit my job to go self-employed as it meant more time with my family), I’m really pleased for you. Clichés though they may be, life’s too short and kids grow up so quickly. It remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’m sure you feel the same. Well played, sir!

  2. I became a stay-at-home dad when daughter was 6m, leaving a well paid career in TV. 5 years later I found it impossible to get back into, but didn’t really want to – I wanted something to fit in better with the life I had that was built around my daughter. Am now in digital marketing, with a company that gives me the flexible hours I want, inc. 2 days working from home. I earn less than I was 15+ years ago, but in the time I took off my wife’s career has soared and she earns way more than I ever did. And I’m totally cool with that. We have a dynamic that completely works for all three of us. Life is good 🙂

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