Respecting the Rhythm of Work and Family

Even when promoting a book, you need to respect the rhythm of work and family
Even when promoting a book, you need to respect the rhythm of work and family

One thing I have learned about balancing work and family is that you need to take the long view. Work can take precedent sometimes. Other weeks, family can come to the fore. And it’s ok if you are temporarily out of balance. We need to respect the rhythm of work and family.

In the business world, we call this the difference between Episodic Overwork and Chronic Overwork. It’s ok, and probably necessary for career advancement, to have some weeks in which you burn the midnight oil. Accountants during tax season. Lawyers in the home stretch of a big case. A big client deadline. Passing a certification exam. Promoting a book. Even in nature, high tides and occasional forest fires are good things.

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My Wall Street Journal Interview with Max Schireson on Prioritizing Family and Career

Last month, Max Shireson gave up his job running a billion-dollar startup to spend more time with his family. And he couldn’t be happier about it. Schireson’s departure from Internet database company MongoDB Inc., which he announced in a blog post that quickly went viral, became a catalyst for a discussion that rarely takes place … Read more

Catch These Moments While We Can (on the end of “Nicky, the Skunk and the Dinosaur”)

…but then it occurred to me that never again would he be seven years, one month, and six days old, so we had better catch these moments while we can. -Bill Bryson

I'll miss fun times like these while Nick is little...
I’ll miss fun times like these while Nick is little…

My wife Amy was recently in a play in which her character’s family was, after many years, selling their family farm. In one scene, she’s reflecting with her teenaged son about the memories they shared in the house, and she dreamily reminisces about the bedtime stories she had made up for him when he was a young boy. She ends this scene with the line, “I don’t remember the last time I told you one of those stories.”

On this day, as Nick enters fourth grade, I found this line particularly profound. My son is growing up, and there are lots of things I “used to do” with him that he’s now grown out of. But, just like Amy’s character, I don’t remember the last time I did those particular things with him.

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CEO Steps Down To Be A More Involved Dad

Yesterday, Max Schireson stepped down as CEO of MongoDB, a successful and growing software company, in order to be a more involved father. He used this opportunity to give voice to the work-family struggles of today’s fathers. Why his work-family role modeling is so important.

I hope that me telling this story in my position will help others feel more comfortable in making similar choices and help people in senior leadership roles be more public about it. – Max Schireson

Max Schireson downshifted from his CEO role to be more present with his family
Max Schireson downshifted from his CEO role to be more present with his family

In his own words:

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7 Things I Learned from Reading “Overwhelmed” by Brigid Schulte

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Schulte is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It examines why so many of us feel so stressed and time-pressured and, more importantly, what we can do about it. Here are seven lessons I took from “Overwhelmed.”

"Overwhelmed" by Brigid Schulte expertly examines our hurried and conflicted lives and provides hard-won advice for us all
“Overwhelmed” by Brigid Schulte expertly examines our hurried and conflicted lives and provides hard-won advice for us all

Disclaimer: Schulte is a friend of mine, and we were both participants at recent White House Summit events. However, this article represents only my honest opinion; I received no compensation (never have, never will)- not even a free book!

With that, here are seven personal lessons that can help us feel less overwhelmed (The book also contains an analysis on how US culture, public policy, gender norms and corporate culture all contribute to “the Overwhelm,” but for now, let’s focus on things we can control):

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Hey Slacker Dad- Parent the Way You Want, Stop Being A Jerk About It

An article in the Guardian defending traditional dads from the peer pressure of “50/50 dads” goes too far in trying to make its case- at one point, insulting involved dads by calling them “Wet Wipes.” Let’s stop with the Daddy Wars, please.

Alex Bilmes' article makes a decent point- IF you can make your way through the layers of judgment and condescension towards other dads.
The layers of judgment and condescension towards other dads obscures the one decent point in Alex Bilmes’ article.

My advice to Alex Bilmes- be whatever type of parent you want to be (short of being abusive or neglectful), let others choose their own styles, and stop being a judgmental jerk about it.

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Former MLB Player Gabe Kapler on Being a Good Father (and Not Taking PEDs)

With Spring Training in full swing, I want to highlight a baseball-related fatherhood story–how one MLB player chose being a role model to his kids over the temptation of using PEDs.

I figured that ultimately I would be in a position in which I’d be forced to impart one of two lessons: “don’t do it like dad” or “follow in my footsteps.” I chose the latter. – Gabe Kapler

Gabe Kapler at Fenway Park
Gabe Kapler’s decision to eschew PEDs was made, in part, based on his concerns about being a good father and role model to his children (Photo: Wikipedia, creative commons license)

Gabe Kapler was a major league baseball player for 12 years. He was never a star, but was a frontline player for several years before becoming a role-player. In a recent article at Baseball Prospectus, Kapler wrote a fantastic, nuanced article about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and his decision to eschew them. In his own words:

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The Single Best Way To Be A Great Dad: BE THERE

“When your kids become adults, how do you want them to remember their childhoods with you?” Almost all fathers want to be remembered as being a consistent positive presence in their children’s lives. Making this happen requires aligning our actions with our priorities.

I hope Nick can look back on his childhood and know that I was there for him (just like I can look back on time with my dad)
I hope Nick can look back on his childhood and know that I was there for him (just like I can look back on my childhood with my dad)

Modern Dad Workshops

John Badalament is a true pioneer in work-family issues for dads. He wrote a great book, made a documentary, and writes and conducts dads workshops all aimed at equipping men to be better, more present fathers. I had read his book a long time ago, and was happy to have met him in person at the Thirdpath Institute Summit this past May.

In his workshops, he asks this question as a prioritization exercise:

“When your kids become adults, how do you want them to remember their childhoods with you?”

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