A Follow Up Conversation with Bryan, May 2012
What motivated you to want to be actively involved in caring for your sons?
Seeing my workaholic dad die two years before he was going to retire had a major influence on me. He and my mom had long planned to do a lot of traveling in retirement and he never got that chance. It made me want to combine work and family in a different way. I didn’t want to focus only on work and put everything else on hold until … I reached a certain level, got a certain position, had a certain amount o f money in the bank, whatever. I wanted to mix it up a lot more and combine my career with other important things in my life, like getting to know my kids in a way that I never really knew my dad.
We’re all accustomed to the rewards of work (e.g. money, recognition). Parenting is much less goal driven and the rewards of parenting are different but no less valuable and no less satisfying. They build your self-confidence in a different way. They come from inside you.
Two special memories come to mind from my early days of caring for my older son (now in high school and wearing a bigger shoe size than me). On my day home from work with him, we would often go to the center of our town in the morning and just hang out. I would strap him in the baby Bjorn, get myself a cup of coffee and walk around downtown, looking around in the store windows, sitting on the grass in the nearby park while rolling around a ball, and just enjoying being together. Then we he was a little bit older, a toddler just learning how to talk, he looked up at me one day after he fell down and hurt himself, reaching his small arms up and saying, “Daddy, hold you.” That was a great parenting moment. It symbolized that I’d become a key source of comfort and that he’d learned from me repeatedly saying, “Skylar, do you want me to hold you?” when he was sad or hurt, how to bring comfort to himself by reaching out.
What do you wish you had known as a new dad that you’ve learned along the way?
Knowing that I would continue to grow and achieve in my career, while prioritizing my family as well, would have given me even more strength to be comfortable finding that balance. There was one time when I got laid off and very soon after, heard about an open position that might have been a good fit. I felt a lot of internal pressure to run out and interview for the job when what I really needed was to take a break. It was a huge struggle. Having a severance package and being in a two-income household certainly helped, but I was surprised at just how much pressure I felt to get right back in the game. I ended up intentionally taking several months off, spending a lot of time with my kids that summer, and started job hunting in the fall. And the next opportunity that came up was just as exciting and, in retrospect, an even better fit. For me, the lesson of that experience was there isn’t one perfect opportunity and if you had that great opportunity, you are very likely to get another. But because your kids only grow up once, the opportunity to spend time with them does not come around again.
From the outside it’s hard to understand the satisfaction you get from more balance in your life. You get this security that you know you are OK with your family. It can be rejuvenating to be involved in the day to day stuff—making dinner, helping with homework—and you know you will get to that place of growing together if you invest the time.
What advice might you give to a new dad?
I would say make sure you have time alone with your kids when you are in charge. That’s when you really get to know them best. You also want to have time just with your spouse/partner, without your kids, because your kids will grow up but hopefully you and your wife/partner will be together for many years after that. Also, understand that if you continue to add value professionally, opportunities will continue to present themselves. There is not one perfect position that is the end all and be all. I’ve found keeping that perspective really helps because there is so much pressure—especially for men—to focus all your time and energy at work.
We are partnering with Salary.com to ask the question “What’s a Dad Worth?” Check out their interactive polls and surveys as we approach Father’s Day. You can also head to Salary.com’s Dad Salary Wizard to find out how much dads are worth, and even print out a paycheck for yourself or the dads in your life!
—Photo credit: ewen and donabel/Flickr