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“So, what have you learned over the past 3 months,” asked my wife, over breakfast.
It’s been 3 months since I stopped working: 3 months since the birth of our third child.
So, what had I learned?
It was a question I had to think about. I mean really think about.
Like most of us, my post-education life has been dominated by work, both in terms of hours spent and my identity.
Not that I go to dinner parties now, but new people rarely ask, “Who are you?” Instead it’s: “What do you do?”
Perhaps compounded by the fact I’d left a company of which I was a co-founder and director, the post-leaving weeks were existentially more nervous than I’d imagined.
Purely on the journalist side, over the last decade, I’d averaged over 3 articles a day. In the past 3 months, I’ve only managed one article — if you can dignify these as article — every 4 days. That’s an order of magnitude change.
Other changes: I’ve also stopped running for the first time in 5 years and not taken up yoga, started painting or learning Swift (all things I planned to attempt when I stopped work).
“Like most of us, my post-education life has been dominated by work.”
On the plus side, I’ve started a low-level cooking obsession — especially making bread — and read a bunch of books that had been sitting on my shelf for years. There are still a lot of unread books on my shelf.
Yet these were things I’d done or not done, not learned. What had I learned?
And the more I thought about it, it was what I had unlearned that seemed most important.
After 10 years as a games journalist and editor, and a company director, my hard work exit (Workxit?) immediately unlearned the day-to-day forced pace of semi-thoughtlessly doing many things, many of which perhaps weren’t very useful.
(Although my wife tells me, ‘the day-to-day forced pace of semi-thoughtlessly doing many things’ is also what parenting is all about.)
I’d also happily unlearned the irritation of constant secondhand communications. Without an office, our distributed company had run on a never-silent backbone of Skype, Trello and gDocs.
Now, some days, I don’t even check my email.
Of course, tearing down may be necessary but you also have to build again, and over the coming months I hope to attempt many messy experiments in laying some foundations.
“The post-leaving weeks were existentially more nervous than I’d imagined.”
It seems clear to me there are big opportunities in terms of company structure and purpose, not to mention radical ideas about the real value and process of an individual’s work in-and-of itself, and how it relates to company organization.
But they are articles for another day.
Let’s end with an action — not an intellectual conclusion: much harder to implement — I’ve had to learn over the past 3 months.
Taking over morning duties for 2 toddlers has been a real struggle. But repeated experiments have concluded even I can get up to change and entertain them, and make them breakfast as long as the clock digit starts with a 6.
Better if it starts with a 7, but nevertheless deep behavioral traits can be overturned by a high pitched shriek of “Downstairs, Papa.”
After 10 years juggling various responsibilities building a boutique media company, Jon Jordan is taking 4 months out to juggle various responsibilities building 3 toddlers.