The workplace hopes and fears of a first-time father

We want to make work more human. Part of this is opening up the conversation about how work and parenting go together. So today we hear from an employee who has just become a Dad – what are his hopes and fears?

1st time father

You don’t know me but I’m about to become a Dad. I’m also an employee. 

A middle manager in a global, multicultural organisation in the travel industry.

Dad. Employee. Both roles are meeting in my head and talking for the first time.

What’s the upshot of their conversation?

Money feels so much more important – and so much less important too….

I’ve had several parents tell me how shocked they continue to be by how much kids cost.

Kids are not optional expenses, like cars and holidays. I must have enough money to take care of them. That’s a new pressure.

My wife will no longer be earning. That’s a new pressure.

I need to make provisions for if I die. That’s new. Not a nice topic, but an important one.

But hey, what’s the value of money? You can’t take it with you. It’s a means to an end. Quality time with my wife and daughter is the only real currency I care about.

And with that paradox, never before has money been so important and so unimportant.

The pressure of money brings with it another worry too: maybe I’ll be less likely to do the right thing, to be brave at work, because I’m more scared of losing my job.

But morals and doing the right thing are so important now too and I like to think they’d win out. I’m a role model for the first time, after all.

The sleep thing terrifies me. I love my job. But it drains my energy. How will I cope? How will I get my brain into gear?

I don’t do well on little sleep. I work in a social, energy-intensive, start-up business with a large team to look after and that drains an introvert like me.

I’m not too sure how I’ll cope in that environment if I’m running on empty.

But I also feel pretty empowered in my company and in life. I’ll probably have to adjust my working hours. Rethink how I prioritise. Delegate more.

All interesting challenges. But all surmountable. I just need to be proactive.

Loads of men have gone back to work and coped with hardly sleeping at night. And that’s pretty comforting.

I have become more accepting of the richness of relationships. Difficult conversations and difficult relationships feel more natural.

I’m not fazed by the prospect of tough conversations with my kids. I know it’s a big part of being a parent.

Yet I’ve never been a fan of tough conversations with my direct reports.

But I’m finding my attitude changing. These conversations are just a part of that complex, ever-changing experience we call life. You have tough conversations for the right reasons. Because you care.

I believe that having tough conversations is sometimes the best thing you can do for someone. If I had to have one with my kids, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Why should work be any different?

I feel the same way about conflict. It’s an inherent part of working with human beings.

As a manager of a larger team, inevitably I gel more with some people than others. Some people are easy to manage, others are difficult. You rub each other up the wrong way.

I appreciate those ‘difficult’ people more now than ever for who they are.

I’m not really sure why yet, but I do.

I am at peace with my priorities – and ready to fight for them.

It’s one thing saying something’s a priority, but acting on it is much harder. Priorities are made in the moment.

It’s less about a grand plan and more about the action you take when someone asks you to do something.

If you’re tired, it’s easy to say yes to something you can’t do. 

Now I’ve got a quiet resolve that assures me I will be able to make the right choice in the moment, no matter how tired I am.

Family first, work second.

I remain an engaged, hard-working, diligent, committed member of the team, trying my utmost to make this company a success, full of discretionary effort and enthusiasm.

But my daughter comes before all that and always will. It’s just life.

I refuse to be a father who always comes home too late to give her a bath, for example. Totally non-negotiable.

Suddenly I appreciate just how much work is separated out from home life and how terrible it is for society.

I already know my heart will break after those two weeks (a travesty in itself…) parental leave and I have to go back to work.

Isn’t there a better way to integrate work and life so I don’t have to be away from her every day?

Suddenly this topic is incredibly important to me.

Two meeting rooms at work are never used and the building owners are seeking ideas on what to do with them.

Someone suggested knocking them through and creating a creche – with games and food – where partners could bring children during the working day.

And now I can’t get the idea of spending lunchtimes with my daughter out of my head.

Whereas before I’d think, that’s a plus for the organisation and for society, I’m now prepared to do just about anything to make this happen.

But it’s not just about me. My hope is that I’ll be a good role model for fathers everywhere and that I can make work slightly better for parents. I feel like I’m in a critical generation for turning the dial.

We should aim higher. Work is fundamental to life. So is having kids.

As a society we simply are not doing a good enough job of bringing them together.

One of the biggest gifts to parents is flexible working. Kids are unpredictable, after all. Find out how to develop a cracking flexible working policy.