Keeping your eye on the prize..

A while ago, I had a manager who appeared very successful. He was financially secure, had strong friendships (including celebrities from TV and football) and a job he clearly thrived in.

During the early days of working with him I became a father for the first time, and on my return to work we went for a walk. I asked him how he succeeded at so much while being a father and husband. His response has helped guide me ever since.

We stopped in the street, he turned to look at me and said “I’m divorced, you can’t have it all, I don’t have it all. I’m not a good example of how it’s done”.
There’s a scene in The Netflix series ‘The Punisher’ where Frank, the main character, regrets not reading a bedtime story to his daughter one evening. He tells her he’ll make it up to her next time. There wasn’t a next time and Frank became the Punisher, avenging her death. It’s an extreme reminder that you never really know what tomorrow may bring.

What’s the most important part of your life? Do you nurture it?

For many parents it’s their children, for others it’s family and friends. I won the lottery with my wife and kiddos, they’re my most important part of life.

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

Benjamin Franklin

“You can’t have it all..” isn’t a common message to hear throughout western society, we’re practically encouraged to have it ‘all’. A career, a strong family unit, money, and material things.

PepsiCo’s CEO (until late last year) famously said that women can’t have it all, the reality (more accurately) is that no one can have it all. When she stepped down last year, she wrote a goodbye note, in it was regret about not enough family time..

Do you have a regret you could turn around right now before it’s too late?

My first son in the early days

After that walk with my manager I went home. That night I remember looking at my baby son and wondering what his future would be like. As I looked at him asleep, I thought about how much time we’d have together, how much is enough? How could I be the best father I could be? How can I give him the best foundation a life can have?

Read The Tail End blog post by Tim Urban, it may surprise you.

The author of Raising boysSteve Biddulph is quoted as saying if you work more than 50 hours a week consistently, you won’t cut it as a dad. Not a popular opinion, though I think there is some truth to it, and not just on the father side, it’s a parent thing, whatever gender you are.

So, that evening I decided to leave my job. I knew that to progress in work, satisfy the needs of the business and be the parent I aspired to be, my current job and personal life were not aligned.

It took me 9 months to find the right role elsewhere. In that role I used essentialism as my guide, buying each member of my team a copy of the book so they could understand and work in similar ways, if they wanted. I put work life separation into place aggressively, working in ways that meant when I was home, my job did not interfere at any point.

What I realised while working like this, was that I also needed to put more personal wants on hold too. I’m not going to write the book I want to write while my children are still under 5/7 years of age, I’m not able to have routines like daily yoga and meditation at home every morning either.

What? I hear you say, of course you can have children and do those things!

My wife and I chose attachment parenting, using continuum concepts to guide us. This meant we had to give up many of our own wants for a number of years as “You can’t have it all”.

Not everyone will agree, nor did everyone we know agree with this style of parenting. But that’s fine, we’re doing it anyway. It’s tiring (when you co-sleep, a fully restful night is a distant dream). Yet the short term trade offs (like morning yoga and writing my book) are remarkably impactful and we’re already seeing it in our children every day.

I recently read this touching piece about a father who succeeded at being a father. It gave me added confidence that my decision to separate and not balance work and long term aspirations, are right for me and my family right now. As my children become older I’ll have more time for me (as they become more independent) and that’s a conscious choice. I don’t want the regret of relying on nature more than nurture.

As of now I’m working at Unity where family values are strong. I’m living in Denmark, where business puts family values at the top and employees leave earlier in the day to have family time together. I’ve designed my life around what’s most important to me. Have you? If you haven’t, I hope this post inspires you to make the change, so you don’t have regrets.

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4 Replies to “Keeping your eye on the prize..”

  1. Well put Marcus. As a father of two young ones, I have struggled a bit to get to the point of accepting reality (you can’t have it all) and appreciating instead of expecting something else and suffering.

    1. Thanks Nick, it was tricky to write and make sure I got the flavour right. We’ve given up a lot in order to be the best parents we think we can be. Once we knew we couldn’t have it all, a huge weight was lifted and our family unit has been better ever since.

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