One Father’s Journey to becoming a Whole Life Leader
We really do understand that it can feel challenging to imagine yourself as a Whole Life Leader – someone who has time to be successful at work and time to be a team player 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 two 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.
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.
Lesson 4. If you expect to encounter resistance, develop a good track record and then ask to try something as a pilot first.
Lesson 5. Don’t let go off your goals, even when the going gets tough.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.