The plunge, why I gave it all up, when I had kids.
As a group of guys who were yet to have children, on the rare occasion when the topic of children did come up, it would be linked to our financial circumstances. The conversation would often revolve around developing our careers to gain more money to start a family life well.
It appears this theme doesn’t stop there. Becoming a parent for the first time, expecting parents often engage with this topic. Despite traditional gender roles pivoting, men can still be quick to assume a deficit between their current salary and what they deem they will need to ‘provide’ for their future family. This deficit produces various responses and coping strategies. One way it can manifest is for families to entrench themselves further into an unhealthy routine of working long hours and striving.
Counterintuitively, during this season I decided to walk away from the security of my salary, pension and a well-respected employer. I’ve always been a tad rebellious and valued independence. On my CV it gets branded as a somewhat more positive term, like leadership or innovative. I think I largely get that quality from my father. Whether it be directly or indirectly.
My father, Robert was an incredible man. Despite my mother and him separating at an early age, he had the intention, ambition and hurdles that most fathers face. As a child on average, I would see him for one or two precious weeks each year, until his death at the tender age of fifty-five.
I have two girls myself and naturally entering parenting I felt daunted like many. As a result of how I was parented, I felt I had additional impetus to be an involved dad, but also coupled with the feeling of deficit- lack of experience, example and isolation. Consequently, I had an appetite to be involved, hunt out information and seek guidance. My story is far from unique which is what drove my ambition to found This Dad Can. A resource for fathers to connect and master parenting.
As I began to invest more energy into shaping This Dad Can, I became acutely aware of some of the best ‘dad’ global practices, particularly those demonstrated in Sweden, with their shared parental leave. For some time, I had a secret love affair with Sweden, as it seems to be winning on so many fronts.
I love the Swedish word: Lagom. Meaning; just the right amount. It’s the idea of virtue in moderation, rather than gluttony being just good manners. Coming across the word was profound for me. I’ve been indirectly taught to have a poverty mentality to life. I would finish all of the food on my plate, place a high value on possessions and save, save, save. It would lead to me choosing restaurant options based on maximising the consumption in contrast to its low cost. Lagom, however, changed things for the better. It challenged me to develop self-discipline despite the opportunity to upgrade, go large, or have the top shelf item.
This was one of many factors which led to my departure from my full-time job. I suddenly realised that when we stop worrying about maximising and start to evaluate what’s enough, we can try new things. We can revisit opportunities we’ve previously written off. We can evaluate our options on wellbeing rather than consumption. For me, I started to do something profound. I started to dream, I started to consider what would I genuinely want to do if money wasn’t a factor.
Two years into starting a business, sustaining my full-time job and raising a young family, it started to sink in: Jon striving in your job doesn’t have to be the case. Despite being the full-time worker, having both a four-month-old and twenty-eight-month-old child, I decided to pack in my job and go full-time with my business venture.Working from home has provided precious opportunities to spend time with my children during their early years. The change is not only exhilarating but also comes with its emotional gutters too.
As a parent, ensuring you find a healthy balance between work and play is a big deal, whether working for an employer or self-employed. It’s easy to get consumed by your work and place friendships or home life down the priority list. Especially if you enjoy what you do. I’ve found that accessing simple free tools and integrating them into my routine has really helped. Using a free electronic timesheet (Harvest) has provided clarity of my working hours. It helps me view how many hours I’ve done and supports finding a balance.
Becoming a parent is a profound season of change. It often impacts your personality, relationships and lifestyle. It’s important during this time to invest in self-care and positive habits.
Whatever employment you are in, to create healthy habits, I believe you need to gain a true image of what your routine actually is. Life doesn’t have to revolve around striving, pressure and just getting by. Here’s to finding your balance, ‘lagom’.
Connect to the points on work/balance/life hacks/dreams/family? Comment below.
Jon’s the father of two and married for seven years.
He's passionate about health & sport, community action, and personal development. These passions have integrally influenced his character into the man he is today.
He’s the Founder of This Dad Can. This Dad Can is an online resource for new, existing and expecting fathers. It resources men to be the Dads they want to be. Saving you valuable time and money by avoiding the common parenting mistakes. Connect and master parenting at www.thisdadcan.co.uk