ThirdPath

Life Puzzle PiecesOne Father’s Journey to becoming a Whole Life Leader

 

We really do understand that it can feel challenging to imagine yourself as being someone who has time to be successful at work and time to be actively involved at home – but this career path is within your reach.  Key to this journey is (1) becoming clear about what you want time for outside of work and then (2) getting support to move towards these goals.

To illustrate the importance of these simple truths, read Brad’s story. 

Brad is a father who learned many important life lessons on his road to becoming a Whole Life Leader. Brad started his career in a large law firm, but over time made many changes to create a more satisfying approach to work and family. Click on each of his “life lessons” to follow his journey.

Lesson 1. Taking parental leave makes a big difference.

After having their first child, Brad decided to take advantage of his law firm’s gender-neutral parental leave policy.  This was a policy that was rarely used by his male colleagues.  Using this policy, Brad was able to take a three-month paid leave to be with his newborn son after his wife returned to work.

“The leave was a real epiphany,” Brad explains.  “It became clear to me how important my role as a father was. My wife loved my paternity leave, because it was easier for her to go back to work knowing I was at home.  She appreciated the help, and that gave me room to co-parent. ”

“Usually the early issues are left to the woman,” he continued.  “Suddenly, I had to do these things, like being in charge all day, or, when I was thinking about going back to work, selecting what childcare to use.  Since I was home then, it became my job to make these decisions.  It made me a more responsible parent.”

Lesson 2. Make sure each parent has alone time with the children.
Brad’s son greatly benefited from the time with his father.  “Our son got another nurturing source; he wanted to be held by me.  He had a sense of security with me.  You miss that if you do not immerse yourself in family.  It’s just not the same if you are only there on weekends.”

Eight years after taking the paternity leave, Brad could also begin to talk about how deeply discouraging the intense demands of his work situation had become. “I think I was depressed at work, but that was what everyone was doing.  When I was at home on leave, I realized not everyone was working killer hours.  The job had made me myopic and the paternity leave took off the blinders.  I felt the depression lift.”

Lesson 3. Get support to leave an unsupportive workplace.
Shortly after his first son was born, Brad left the large firm in search of better balance.  Over the years, that original paternity leave continued to guide his career decisions.  Ultimately Brad pursued job opportunities outside of the law firm environment and decided to take a position at the company where his wife worked.  By then, Alicia had given birth to a second son, and was already working a reduced four-day schedule.  Not only was his wife a role model for an integrated approach to work, she was also his biggest supporter for making the changes he needed to find a more supportive workplace.

Lesson 4. If you expect to encounter resistance, develop a good track record and then ask to try something as a pilot first.
After working for a year at the consumer products company, Brad decided he was ready to go to an 80%, four-day-a-week schedule.  With the arrival of their third baby, Brad saw his chance.  Initially Brad’s superior was resistant to the idea, but Brad came up with a unique plan to make it happen.  Instead of taking the traditional two weeks’ paternity leave offered by the company, Brad negotiated taking the next ten subsequent Fridays off after the baby was born.  Having established a new work pattern, Brad then asked for, and received permission, to continue this arrangement at 80% pay.  Brad loved the arrangement, and was able to take Fridays off until his third son was 12 months old.

Lesson 5. Don’t let go off your goals, even when the going gets tough.
However, Brad’s boss was eventually replaced, and a new boss insisted that Brad restore his position to full-time.  “He was the kind of guy who came in early and stayed late.  Even though I had been doing my job well on a four-day schedule for a year already, he just would not go for it.”

Brad’s new boss had old-fashioned ideas about men’s and women’s roles.  “My boss supported the reduced work schedules of female colleagues of mine who were doing similar jobs, but told me I should be working 100%.” Brad was shocked. “This gender stereotyping was a big deal for me.”

Instead of leaving the organization, Brad decided to ride out each new challenge with a growing and clearer sense of what he was up against.  “This was the first time that as a white male I could recall experiencing being faced with bigotry or an unfair bias,” he explains.  “I had this theory that the only obstacle to getting the schedule I wanted was in my head, but that clearly wasn’t true.  I was struck by how long it took to negotiate for what I wanted, and how each subsequent boss was reluctant to stick his or her neck out for me.  And this was in a group that had women who were doing this.  The pressure was not even coming from human resources,” he concludes, “It was other peoples’ own gender stereotypes of what I was supposed to be doing.”

Lesson 6. Look for other role models.
What gave Brad the stamina to keep fighting to be an involved Dad despite the resistance he encountered?  In part it was the positive and deep connection he had already fostered at home from his first paternity leave.  Alicia’s situation at work also was a strong positive influence. And the two of them could see what a big difference it made to have both parents involved at home.

In addition, Brad had long been inspired by a close male friend who had worked a four-day schedule since becoming a parent.  This friend had always been upfront about these issues with his employer.  “I was impressed that Sam had always told his employers that he was only willing to work four days a week. Brad explains.  “He had fought for what he wanted.  I had internalized an understanding from my parents’ generation that being a good father meant holding down a well paying job.  Sam was an important role model of something else.”  Sam also encouraged Brad to get in touch with ThirdPath, and Brad credits the support he got from Jessica with giving him the little extra courage he needed to go after his goals.

Lesson 7. It’s a process, not a solution – things will keep on changing at work and at home.
Once more changes at home sparked additional changes at work.  Within the past year, Alicia took on a new role at the company and was asked to go back to a fulltime schedule, yet again this propelled Brad to ask for something more.  “I approached my boss with a new schedule, once again he asked for a three-month trial period.  I suggested a 90% schedule, where I would have the day off every other Friday, at 90% pay.  My boss agreed, and I did not make a big deal about it; I was just off every other Friday.  After it became clear that I was getting my job done well, my boss agreed to make the arrangement more permanent.”

Brad notes, “I am very present at home on this schedule. I don’t think about work or check-in on my day off. After a while, Alicia was able to shift to a 90% schedule as well, so one of us is always home at least one day a week.  The experience has been really positive; the kids call our days off, ‘Mama Day’ and ‘Dada Day.’  They love the day they get to have with us.”

Lesson 8. Take a long-term approach to your collective goals and step by step you’ll get there.
Although it has not been easy, Brad and Alicia have been motivated by taking a long-term view of success.  Just a few months back, Brad took a new position in the company and was again asked to move to a fulltime schedule.  However Brad successfully persuaded his new manager to allow him to start off at his current 90% schedule with an understanding that they would reevaluate it if necessary.  Brad explains that he feels particular satisfaction from this outcome:  “Previously, I felt like I was always following Alicia’s lead when it came to seeking work-life balance, but in this case, I negotiated a flexible arrangement at the start of a new position, which was a first for both of us.”

Brad emphasizes that maintaining work-life balance is a constant work in progress.  “You have to be vigilant and creative because there will always be change and there will always be outside influences that have the potential to take over if you let them.”

“I am finally at a place where I ask for things quickly, I give myself permission to ask for the things I want, and if I don’t get it the first time around, I try it all over again.”  Brad can also see that he and Alicia gain confidence from each other’s decisions.

Lesson 9. Whole Life Leaders are modeling a new approach that others can follow.
Looking ahead Brad notes, “My hope is that I can serve as a role model for other fathers to push for the work family solution that they are looking for.  Sam was such an important role model for me and I want other fathers to know that people like Sam and me are out there.  And that we are great examples of a different approach that can be really fulfilling.  But it all really started with that initial four month paternity leave.  If I hadn’t taken that time off to be with our first son, I probably would never have known my sons the way I do now.  I am so glad I have done things differently.”

And you don’t need to become a parent to start this journey! Even if you are just starting your career, learning how to create time for your life outside of work will pay big dividends in the long run. Peruse our integrating work and life stories and read about the “first step” these pioneers took as they adopted an integrated approach to work and life.

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Assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities. Develop a growing community of individuals, leaders and organizations to influence wider change - both within organizations and at the public policy level. Support a new mind-set where everyone can follow a "third path" - an integrated approach to work and life.

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P.O. Box 9275, Philadelphia PA 19139
Phone: 215.747.8790
Email: time4life (at) thirdpath.org