Like most parents, I’ve found work-life balance to be an ongoing challenge.
When our son was born, I was working in the credit department of a large bank. I had only been there for a short while, but I remember (with dismay) the introductory words of the site leader: “You’re going to spend more time here with your fellow employees then you are with your own families.”
I remember feeling a bit put off by his words, but jumped into my tasks. I tried to see the bright side of things — my hours were capped at 40 hours per week, and I was able to work long days Monday through Thursday. I thought a three-day weekend would be worth it all.
Unfortunately, as time went on, my job became stressful. I was pressured to meet overwhelming sales quotas, and I realized I HATED sales with a passion.
Stress Began Destroying My Relationship
Often, I’d bring my stress home with me. I’d argue with my wife and didn’t enjoy what little family time we had in the evenings. Since I only worked four days a week, that meant working ten hours every day. I’d come home around the time my kids were already in bed.
As miserable as it was, I concluded that I was stuck in my job. We needed the money. With that limiting thought, my relationship began falling apart. No matter what was going on, we seemed to clash. My wife didn’t feel supported and my child could feel our frustrations floating around the house.
But, there finally came a day when I couldn’t handle it anymore. I knew my relationship and family would fall apart if I didn’t do something fast.
How a Spark of Inspiration Brought Change
On my drive to work, I began seeking out inspiration. I came across empowering CDs on the topic of positivity and listened to them with a fervor.
The words I heard drifted slowly into my consciousness. Little by little they inspired me to make shifts in my thoughts and behaviors. I vowed to stop allowing stress to get me down and to not bring my stresses home to my family.
The bank ended up firing me. It was obvious my heart wasn’t in my work — and I couldn’t hide it anymore.
And Yet, I Had to Learn Again
Just before I was fired, my wife secured a part-time job. She’d go to work and I’d watch our son. I enjoyed our time together. We would have amazing times, both at home and out on adventures.
While I enjoyed the time with my son, I had an itch to work again. Thankfully, another opportunity came about. A friend helped me find a promising job as a quality-control manager for a large catering company. The salary was right and the hours were supposedly flexible.
Before I knew it, I was working 60, 70, and even 80-hour weeks. There was no stopping. When there were parties, I’d work 20-hour shifts (that’s not a typo) and then be asked to come into work the next day. I barely saw my family five days a week. My wife became pregnant with our second child and needed help at home. I was sleep-deprived and easily frustrated. Once again, things began spiraling out of control.
Thankfully, I didn’t stay in this one as long as my bank job. I renewed my commitment to work-life balance and walked away sooner than later. Once again, what seemed like an amazing opportunity was just another growth experience.
Work-Life Balance Finally Mastered
After our daughter was born, I took a month off and decided to figure out how I could work from home. Thankfully, I discovered the niche of freelancing. I worked to build up my own book of business.
But then it happened again! I worked crazy hours — many times into the early morning hours. During one of my arguments with my wife, I slammed my computer down in frustration and it broke.
I was computer-less, and buying a new one was a financial stretch. Just when I was about to pull the trigger on a new computer, I had a revelation: I knew that I had to try something completely new, to set boundaries that would work for the long haul.
I decided not to buy a new computer. Instead, I created formal work hours for myself and began using the library as my new office space. I used a library computer — and when 5 pm hit I would leave, head home, and not work until the next day.
It wasn’t easy making this change, but as time went on I was shocked to find myself more focused, less mentally exhausted, and more productive during my work hours.
Work-Life Balance Is an Art
In the end, I know that finding work-life balance takes time, boundaries, and a true desire to learn from every situation that doesn’t serve you well.
If I have any advice for dads, it’s this: Live your truth. Don’t let fears and limited thoughts drive you to get lost in the race of life.