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It sounded great. A steady income to support my family. A job at an award-winning ad agency. A fun job description. It was a nightmare.
For the first months of my son’s life, I worked from my home office with my own business. It was great. I got to spend time with him and my wife. I was there when he first rolled over. When he started to crawl. I comforted him during late nights. I could help out when I was needed and I could set my own schedule. But, as all entrepreneurs and freelancers know — I was never sure when the next invoice would come in.
As a first time parent, that’s a scary thing. We needed to buy food, diapers, clothes, baby wipes and god knows what more. That’s expensive.
So, when the opportunity knocked on my door I was both excited and flattered. I jumped in with 2 feet and, on paper, it all sounded great. Edinson was around 7 months and I started as a Creative Tech at this ad agency.
I figured out that this world (at least in Sweden) wasn’t suited for parents. You weren’t judged on the quality of work you produced, you were judged on the amount of time you spent working (or at least spent at work).
If You’re Working Until Midnight, You’re Doing Something Wrong
Some people actually took pride in the fact that they’ve stayed at the office until midnight. In my mind, if you need to that you’re doing something wrong.
If you’re focused and work on the right things there’s no need for overtime.
If a project was badly planned from the beginning, nobody would mention it to the client. Instead, the focus was on the creatives to work faster. Sometimes we were treated as resources on a literal level and production managers tried to squeeze out every last minute of us. It was crazy.
It was expected of me to stay late to crunch before deadlines, without extra pay, because that’s just how it’s done.
I don’t mind working hard, but I do mind working stupidly. And I definitely mind missing out on time with my family for no good reason.
I Barely Saw My Son For 2 Months
Meanwhile, my wife took care of our son by herself. I rarely saw him during the week and felt a disconnection growing between us. When I got home and he crawled towards me with this huge smile it made me happy for a second. But I also knew that he was so happy to see me because I rarely was around anymore.
The first years of your new family is too important to lose out on due a job.
Usually, I came into the office one hour before most people so I could leave earlier. Around 5, I needed to be out the door in order to be home just in time for dinner.
When I left I could get remarks like ‘Oh, leaving early today are we?’ I couldn’t stand it.
Straight after dinner, Edinson went to bed. Some mornings I didn’t even see him before I went to work. I had a beautiful child with my wife and I saw him about 6 hours a week (weekends excluded).
That’s just ridiculous.
Two months in, I decided to quit. I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
A 30-Hour Work Week Works Great
Today, 3 years later, my company has 2 employees and we all work 30-hour weeks so that we have time to spend on what we find important.
I spend a lot of time with my wife and (now) 2 kids.
I believe this makes us more focused at work. We’ve never had any trouble meeting a deadline. And we’re constantly growing. If you’re focused and work on the right things there’s no need for overtime.
Think About What’s Important And Make Decisions Based On That
I guess what I’m trying to achieve with this post is to encourage you to follow what’s really important to you.
A steady job might be important in some people’s eyes, but really time with your loved ones trumps it.
The first years of your new family are too important to lose out on due to a job.
Footnotes: no bad feelings towards the people who worked there, we also had a lot of fun. But working at an agency clearly wasn’t for me at the time.
I’m aware I don’t mention my wife a lot in this text and that decisions I make will impact her as well. However this is not a text about her and, obviously, I want to spend as much time as possible with my entire family.
Dennis Cessan is a developer, father, entrepreneur and productivity nerd (who wishes he was a writer).