“How can I join a new job and take leave in the first week? What will people think? It will send a wrong signal…” and a hundred other such thoughts raced through my mind.
“Maybe I should take half a day off… maybe I should join the evening call and try and find time between meetings to finish off all the last-minute things that need to be done.”
This is the mental wrestling match I had, as I fought the guilt of being a good professional vs being a good dad.
The answer was really simple in retrospect. First an honest conversation with myself and then an equally honest conversation with my colleagues. (In the spirit of full disclosure my wise wife helped me see how important this time with my son was in the grand scheme of things. The last two days with him, before he ventured out into the world on his college journey.)
A weight lifted. Two wonderful ordinary days spent doing nothing especially important. Web check-in on the flight. Activate international roaming. Checklist revisited. Warm gloves located. Favourite food ordered and shared. Two special days of being a family. Doing nothing really important and yet giving the space and time to each other, which in the end is what’s truly important.
There is so much talk about work-life balance these days with work from home and lines blurring between professional and personal space. In my experience, it’s not about the work hours being long. Sometimes pulling a late-night sprint to a deadline can be exhilarating. Working against the clock to a nail-biting finish can get the creative juices flowing. I find having the flexibility and understanding of a workplace that allows you to make the choice to show up for the family when it matters most is most important.
The tougher part is having the courage to make the choice to show up for the ordinary days. The parent-teacher meeting. The hour doing homework. The family lunch together. To be able to make time for these ordinary events and priorities them without feeling guilty is no small achievement.
It often means adding two hours to work after everyone has gone to sleep. Or getting up a few hours early to catch up on a crucial piece of work that has a deadline. This is the balancing act. This for me is what work-life balance is about.
I am grateful for the many ordinary days that I have been able to enjoy. At work and at play. They are the days that add up in the end analysis and make an extraordinary life.
A psychological safe workplace is the space to create. A space where team members have the courage to make difficult choices without fear of judgment. A space where hands are extended to help me stay on the tight rope and manage the balancing act and look good and feel good while doing it. This is the kind of workspace that will allow creativity to flourish. This is the kind of workspace where people will grow and be their best selves.
Work-life balance is a tightrope walk and every so often I will fall. When there is a safety net below and a hand to catch me then I can get right back up and keep going. So here is me reminding myself – Be that hand for somebody. Create that space for somebody.
What will people think if I do that? Me thinks it’s pretty straightforward, no need to overthink it.
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