How’s your work life balance? I thought mine was on track, but twin babies have a way of thrusting you back into reality.
On an anxious (and eager) Wednesday morning last November, I was given the best gift a man could hope for. I became a new father when my wife and I welcomed our twin babies, one boy and one girl, into our family. We are so blessed to have achieved our dreams because it took an abundance of determination and faith to make it happen. Before the babies arrived, my wife and I were both working to advance in our professions. And, before I became a father, I thought I was clued in to the struggles of building a successful career while balancing personal obligations and endeavors of mine.
The expansion of our family proved me wrong.
When our babies arrived, it became painfully obvious that I didn’t have a clue and I was about to be challenged in new ways. I immediately had to learn how to balance my important roles with each other on the fly.
As all parents can attest to, the first days, weeks and months were a blur. We had incredible support from our families, which made life more manageable. I also had to ask for support in the form of understanding from my supervisor, and even my subordinates at work. What they granted me in the workplace allowed me the opportunity to attend every doctor’s appointment, of which there were numerous, take a day of leave more frequently than in the past, and even understand when I arrived to work late showing the signs of a tough night with the babies. Family support plus the flexibility from work made the first few months a success in my opinion. To be clear, there are times I’ve felt torn between my roles as a father, husband and service member, but I feel I’ve achieved a pretty decent work life balance to this point. I hope my wife, children and coworkers would say the same.
What does work life balance even mean?
There may be confusion out there about what the term even means. I think work life balance is a misnomer. It doesn’t mean equal time spent on work and life, and achieving balance certainly doesn’t mean that all of your responsibilities and roles get the same amount of attention. Plus, I imagine that’s pretty unrealistic for those family men and women who work 40+ hour weeks–the normal routine for the vast majority of us.
Instead, balance depicts a state of being in which each part of your life gets the time and attention it deserves, hopefully without sacrificing the other parts. But even that goal is difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain. My short experience as a dad tells me reaching that state requires constant vigilance and attention being paid to the little decisions that are made daily, such as attending a seemingly insignificant doctor appointment with your child.
It may not be obvious to us but perhaps those simple gestures that plug us in as working parents are what makes the most impact with our loved ones. Another point to make is that balance means something different to each one of us. Each and every parent has a different situation and thus different expectations. One thing is for sure, you have to talk these things through with your family and with your employer.
Here are two great pieces of advice I hope to put into action:
Be where your feet are.
Recently, I received the best advice I had gotten in quite some time. It came from a retiring Chief Master Sergeant who said, “be where your feet are”. This combination of words has made a big impact on my pursuit for that ever elusive work life balance. What the Chief is implying is, you are at your best when you are truly engaged in your role at the time you are in it. Meaning, while you are at work, be fully at work. When you are at home, put the phone down and the computer away so you can be 100 percent at home. A half-engaged employee is bad news but a half-engaged parent and partner could be even worse.
Plan for longevity.
Both your employer and your family will benefit from your practice of a healthy work life balance. Though, there are also rewards for maintaining it. We are all more energetic, engaged, and productive when we feel that our lives are in control. Lastly, your military branch needs to get 20 good years out of you, especially since your career in uniform is a marathon not a sprint. Therefore, the balance needs to be sustainable.
It is now seven months after adding the title of father to my resume, and I feel good about the direction my life is going. My success in these roles is only possible because I have an amazing wife supporting me. Undoubtedly, there will be difficult times ahead. Though, I believe, the combination of support from my family and work, along with the above good advice, will get me where I need to be.
My wife and children will send a status update soon. Read comments