As a working parent, I’ve learned there is no such thing as work/life balance. Society isn’t set up to cater to the needs of a "millennial parent", one who values their contribution to the world via work, but values their family life more. Who seeks to create a new generation of people who are doing better than themselves.
I found out the hard way, juggling being a father of two young boys while at the helm of a fast growing technology company. It took me a long time to move past the idea that you have to be constantly working in order to be successful. You see, your work and your life are unique, so your methods and solutions should be individually tailored to account for that. I didn’t know this at the time though. It’s easy to get caught up in the bullshit of life and neglect other just as crucial areas.
I constantly doubted myself and wore a mask to the outside world. I became a caricature of myself who was always optimistic and full of energy. While at home, my family experienced the worst of me. I was exhausted, angry and frustrated. I looked for other extremes to give me some sense of feeling alive. I adopted coping mechanisms that were even more isolating and detrimental to my most important relationships. I became terrible in constructively articulating my ideas, which led to more frustration, pushing everyone away. Most regrettably, my family.
My ability to be clear and direct in communication suffered, and I packaged every message in a joke. But hey, nobody wants to hear from a clown. I found it very hard to juggle between expectations from my team, investors, external pressures at work and my wife & kids at home.
There was a lot of guilt. I was failing my family and most of all myself. I felt ashamed of who I had become. It was time for a hard reset.
I've learned that without knowing ourselves, it’s almost impossible to find a healthy way to interact with the world around us. Without taking time to figure it out, we can’t have a foundation to build the rest of our lives on. I choose to leave the company I had founded a decade before and took that time. I’m aware of the privilege I have to be able to do so.
What a struggle. A mental one mostly. I was afraid for the times ahead, a good dose of insecurity combined with the lack of experience in raising kids. It took nearly 2 years to get my family and myself in a better place. To get aligned, to work together in building a safe environment we can all recognise as home. Learning to think outside of my own upbringing. Parenting is hard work. I felt I wasn’t prepared for the most important job in my life. I wanted to set the example at home that family comes first and needed to find the tools that would help me along my journey.
Unfortunately, understanding the importance of early childhood development isn’t common knowledge for many people, myself included. Research shows that the first years of a child’s life set the stage for all future growth. I learned physical and mental health, educational and occupational attainment, family wellbeing, and the capacity for mutually rewarding social relationships all have their roots in early childhood.
As you embark on the journey of parenting, you quickly learn things about yourself. You learn how much healing of your inner child needs to happen. You start to pay more attention to your own dialog. You have a better understanding for how you think and process ideas. When you start to share these ideas, the transmission of them eventually becomes second nature.
I’m not alone here. Parents today are raising their children against a backdrop of increasingly diverse and, for many, constantly evolving family forms. The relentlessness of modern parenting makes it hard for parents to stay together as they face increasing societal pressure. Approximately 50 percent of American children will witness the breakup of a marriage. In Europe, one in three couples split up before their child turns 3 years old. Research on the effects have shown children of divorced parents suffer both physical and emotional trauma, stunting their full potential.
<aside> 💡 “From pregnancy through early childhood, all of the environments in which children live and learn, and the quality of their relationships with adults and caregivers, have a significant impact on their cognitive, emotional and social development.” – Jack P. Shonkoff