Four years ago this summer, I remember sitting on a big pink chair at the hospital, with my newborn daughter in my arms. Nearby, my wife was laying on the hospital bed, cuddling our son. We were the proud parents of twins, and I distinctly remember saying to myself, "I don't want to miss a single moment of their lives."
Three months later I was sitting on a plane, heading to Asia as part of a ten-day college recruitment tour. As a Dean, there was no way to avoid the trip, even with my first newborn at home. Welcome to the life of a working dad. It was part of my job, and I had to go. What's more, for the next few months in a row, I found myself working at the office almost every weekend and staying late at work every weeknight. It was just part of the job.
Looking back, I realize I did not have a clue about "work/life balance." I thought that was just a catchphrase used by people who didn't have a strong work ethic. Never mind the fact that I could feel myself getting burned out, and starting to resent my employer. I didn't think there was anything I could do about it. I missed my kids, I missed my wife, and I wanted to know that at some point during the madness of every work week, I would be allowed to spend time with my family.
I recently read a blog about working fathers, and the growing awareness among men about the need for work-life balance. And while I know that every person has their own unique circumstances when it comes to their employer, schedule and job responsibilities, I truly applaud fathers who make the effort to not let work interfere with their family life.
For me, it took almost two years. By then my third child was on the way, and I knew I was not going to make the same mistake again. Luckily for me, my career path led me to EdAssist, a division of Bright Horizons. We have a truly flexible working culture that allows us all to be successful at work and at home. Today, 25% of the team I manage is remote, and I make sure that every so often, I am too. I drop my kids at pre-school once a week, am home on Saturdays for karate lessons and even meet my wife and kids for lunch every so often.
Do I still travel for work? Sure. Can work be stressful at times? Of course. But the difference is that now, I am able to work for my family, not despite my family. And yes, I know that I am lucky to be employed by a great employer like Bright Horizons that truly embraces and encourages the idea of work/life balance. But the fact of the matter is that the biggest change is not my employer, it's me, and what I want from my employer.
National Work and Family Month is a great time to pause and take stock. What have you learned about your work/life balance -- or yourself -- over the course of your career? What would you still like to change?