Thursday, February 25, 2016

How I Found Happiness as a Working Dad

I’m currently on a plane. In 3 hours and 45 minutes I will land in Salt Lake City, exit the airplane, make my way through the airport and onto the parking shuttle, find my car, pay the parking meter, drive 25 minutes to my house, walk to my door, unlock it, go to my daughter’s room where she most likely has been struggling to stay awake long enough to see me and hug me upon my arrival. She will most likely have failed, and I will kiss her forehead, whisper that I love her in her ear, and make my way upstairs to do the same for my son. Then I will go and crawl into bed with Stevie and we will chat a little bit about my trip before one of us falls asleep while the other one is mid-sentence. Whoever is left awake will kiss the other one and roll over happy to not have to sleep alone again. I don’t really like being away from my family, but the coming home part is sure nice. This isn’t the norm for me, but it could have been. 

Allow me to tell you a story. 

When I was in my early 20’s I was hired to work for a little shipping company that transports something like 40% of the US’s GDP every year. When some percentage of that percentage was late or delayed or lost or damaged, I was the guy you called and yelled at.  Eventually I became the guy who got on the phone when you asked for a supervisor, and shortly after that I became the guy who trained the guy who got on the phone when you ask for a supervisor. From there I moved on to become the guy who you got to speak to when you asked for a supervisor’s supervisor, then asked for that supervisor’s manager, and then asked that manager for the phone number of the president. No, I wasn’t the president of company. I was what was called a Corporate Customer Relations Manager, and if you got me on the phone you were either incredibly important, or incredibly angry/persistent. These phone calls were the worst of the worst, not always because of the people. Sometimes it was because we had really dropped the ball. Regardless of whose fault, the calls were rough. The job was rough. 

I spent my days putting out PR fires and averting disasters. I fixed things, and I helped a lot of people. But every evening when I came home after a day of being screamed at, ordered around and insulted, I was toxic to my family. 

Stevie would think I was mad at her. I’d explain it wasn’t her and that it was work, and she then she would want to talk about work. Then I would explain that I already had to go through it once and rehashing it again would only lengthen the amount of time I had to think about work, she’d say OK and we’d both sulk in angry silence, usually with our newborn daughter staring directly at us. 

I decided that instead of coming home and transferring my shitty, toxic mood to my family I would go directly to the office and decompress every day. It worked at first. I would come home, go straight to the office, write away the anger and stress of the day, and emerge a new man! The only problem was that by the time I emerged from my pain pit, my daughter would be in bed and Stevie would be ready to follow. Something needed to change, but I was terrified. 

By this point I had worked at at my job for nearly a decade. I considered it my forever job, and was in the process of interviewing for a position that would have brought with it a hefty pay increase. My boss at the time had been with the company for longer than I had been alive. People don’t leave that job. Still, something in my gut told me that if I didn’t find a way out of that job, Stevie and the kids were going to be the ones that paid the price. Sure, I was bringing home money, but I wasn’t being the kind of father I wanted to be – a happy one. A balanced one.

Stevie’s support I took a leap of faith and started over – all the way over. All I had known for most of my adult life was logistics and customer service. I didn’t know what else I would be good at, but I knew that whatever job I took would need to be one that let me be a father first. 

After applying for a few different positions I finally was given an opportunity to move into marketing by a woman who became one of Stevie and I’s best friends. It was an entry level position, and small cut in pay, but a huge opportunity to learn a new skill that would pull me from the grips of a lifetime of decompressing alone in my office while my kids grew up outside the door. 

I spent the next two years at that job learning SEO and Online Marketing, and when I eventually was offered a senior position at a different company, my boss congratulated me and wished me well. 

In my interview for Clearlink I was nervous. I knew it would be more pay, and I would have more opportunities to advance, but what I didn’t know was how they would feel about my priorities. In my experience, and in the way a work-ethic had always been communicated to me, the job came first. Not that family wasn’t important, it was just that my lot in life as man was to sacrifice my time with my family for the good of my family. That just didn’t fly with me. That is not the dad I want to be. 

So I took another leap of faith. I was honest. 

When they asked me what I was passionate about, I told them my passion was my family and my kids. I mentioned my blog and how I built it from scratch telling stories about fatherhood. I let them know that my perfect position would be one where I got to come into the office and work with a smart, fun collaborative group and at the end of the day I could leave work and work and go home to be an engaged father with my family. It was a long, rambling answer, but I could tell by their faces and their nods by the end of the interview that I had found the job I was looking for. I received an offer within an hour. 

I’m truly blessed now. I have not missed a single gymnastics or ballet practice. I have been at every parent teacher conference and Halloween Parade. When my child is sick, my boss is the first one to say go. But the most important part? I may work extra hours here and there, but when I walk in the door after work now I don’t go straight to my office. I go straight to my kids.

I still get work done, a lot of work done. I go to work and for 8+ hours a day I work with one of the smartest collaborative teams I could ever dream of. Then I go home and laugh with my kids. When Stevie asks me about work, I don’t shy away from it. It is perfect. I feel balanced. Oh, and the guy who got the position that I was interviewing for before I left what I thought was my "forever job"? He has spent the better part of the last few years away from his family training customer service reps in Malaysia. He’s a good friend and a wonderful father too, but I can’t imagine being away that long. And thanks to a leap of faith, a little bit of gentle nudging by my wife, and openly communicating my needs to my employer from the beginning, now I don’t have to. And that has made all the difference. 

This post is sponsored by Plum Organics. Recently they teamed up with one of my favorite new websites, Fatherly. Be sure to go check out their other posts about working parents. They are so well written. I am honored to be counted among them!

But first, a little more about my sponsor:  

Plum Organics makes amazing, nutritious food for kids and the have been sending them to us for the past year. For that reason the kids are ecstatic that Plum is a sponsor of this blog. I am excited for another reason. Well, two really. I like the product, and two, do you notice how many times in the post above I mentioned Plum Organics? That’s not what they are looking for. They want to sponsor conversations. They want to be patrons of my writing, and for that and the fact that their product is delicious and healthy, I honestly think you should give them a try. 

No comments:

Post a Comment