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Being a card-carrying member of the American workforce, I am fully aware of what is expected. Long hours, willingness to work weekends and/or holidays, stagnant wages. The expectation to pledge full allegiance to my employer or face the unemployment line.
Work-life balance only exists as long as you’re living to work.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise there is a stigma attached to being a working parent.
- We’re unreliable because there can always be a ‘family emergency.’
- We expect all national holidays off (because the kids don’t have school) and don’t forget snow days!
- Oh, and there’s always something more important than our job. (Hint: It’s our kids.)
Yes, being a parent means family takes precedence over everything else and, to be frank, if the requirement for being an acceptable employee is my willingness to give up everything for that job, consider this my letter of decline.
It’s absurd that type of thinking is even a factor. Employers should be looking for candidates with diverse backgrounds, individuals who bring a wealth of life’s experiences to their organizations. That, of course, comes in many shapes and sizes, including being a parent.
Still, it has been suggested that I stay away from discussing my family at work (but in all seriousness, my kid is adorable), that I lie about what I do on the weekends (mostly birthday parties and playdates). I’ve even been told to take my address off of my resume so potential employers won’t ask why I live in the suburbs (because nothing beats a good, free school system).
Have I followed this advice?
Because not only am I proud of who I am, which includes being a father, I’m actually a better employee because of it. And here’s why:
I Know How To Deal With (Literal And Figurative) Shit
You can read all the books you want and take as many parenting classes as you can, but nothing prepares you for life as a parent. You’re thrown into an absurdly taxing situation where life and death is literally in the balance. You have to think on your feet, be creative and failure is simply not an option. What kind of employer wouldn’t want a candidate with that skill set?
Patience Really Is A Virtue
So far, my journey as a parent has had 3 stages; infancy, toddlerhood and something I call toddler-teen.
Infancy is exactly what you’d expect. There’s a lot of eating, sleeping and shitting. And trust me, none of that is as easy as it sounds, especially when all 3 of those things are happening at the same time.
Toddlerhood comes along with walking and talking. It’s basically the moment parenting becomes real. Every moment is filled with confusion (trying to figure out what your child is saying) and a constant threat of danger (now they’re mobile, so you never know what type of trouble they’re about to get into).
Contrary to popular belief, parenting isn’t really a 24/7/365 job. It’s more like being ‘on-call’ every minute of your life.
Toddler-teen is basically an explosion of personality. Think Pixar’s Inside Out, except less relatable because it’s impossible to remember what it’s really like to be five. This stage is accompanied by inconsolable tantrums, never-ending negotiations and a royalty-inspired sense of entitlement.
I’ve never experienced a more trying time in my life. Every moment is a blessing. A very hard, at times frustrating, joyous blessing. It requires on the job training and the biggest lesson of all is to have patience.
I’m The Best Manager I Know And I Never Stop Working
On top of working a full day at the office I also manage my son’s school schedule, extracurricular activities, playdates, nanny/baby sitter schedules, daycare schedules, all while making sure they fit within my wife’s schedule, who, by the way, is also a working parent.
This plan is executed every day, 7 days a week with a disappointed 5-year-old hanging in the balance. Want someone that can handle the pressure of a demanding job, day in and day out? I’m your man.
Contrary to popular belief, parenting isn’t really a 24/7/365 job. It’s more like being ‘on-call’ every minute of your life. When I’m at work, I’m focused on my job but I’m still on-call as a parent, just like when I’m home, I’m focused on my family but I’m constantly checking my phone for work related matters.
After I became a parent, the most significant change to my life was my definition of priority. My time became more valuable. Every moment with my son became more important. But when I’m not with my family, I’m spending every moment trying to make their lives better.
So, having a child has not made me less focused on my professional life. The opposite has happened. Having a child has made me want to work harder. It has made me want to accomplish greater things. It has made me want to be a better person and a better man so that my son can see, by my example, what real success and achievement looks like.
Eric Leffler is a storyteller, producer, and dad. Check him out on Twitter @ericleffler.