My Hands Are Full

For the last 18 months, I’ve been, and still am, the primary carer for my daughter on at least two days of the working week (plus Sunday).

My wife and I have split responsibilities so that we both do paid work 3 days a week, 3 days a week we are the primary carer for the kids (we have 3), and Saturdays we are all together.

It is not easy to coordinate. And starting and running a business during this time has been particularly challenging.

Both of us realise though that the person looking after the kids on a particular day will, on balance, usually have the tougher day, and needs the ‘hunter/gatherer’s support from the moment they have finished ‘gathering’ for the day.

This is a promise we make to each other, and we try our best to leave our other work at work so that we can be there for the other person.

Personally, I have found it particularly difficult to manage my own expectations of what I can commit to regarding my business.

I’ve been thinking “I only work 3 days”.

Through coaching, I realised that that simple phrase was actually making me feel inadequate. An unconscious narrative that I should be working 5 days in my business, and was subsequently putting pressure on myself to make up the other 2 days outside of standard hours.

I wasn’t logging off, and I was trying to do work when my daughter slept or was otherwise distracted. I was working at night when everyone slept (and I should have been sleeping too).

I then transitioned to thinking “Actually, I work 3 days”. And realised that I needed to contain my work commitments to these days. Having this bleed into home life, wasn’t an option.

But again, through coaching, I began to appreciate that I was still actually devaluing my domestic/caring duties because they weren’t ‘paid’. I still felt the pressure to think about work, when I wasn’t at work. And my other job suffered.

Despite my recognition that caring responsibilities are, actually, the harder job.

The reality is “I’m working 7 days. I have 2 jobs.”

My new personal narrative is that “I’m a father and husband first. My second job is as a business owner, coach and facilitator.”

And, with this in mind, and looking back at the last couple of years (which admittedly have been the hardest of my life), I’ve never been happier.

AND, I think I’m better at being a gatherer.

There is a lot of pressure that we, and society, place on ourselves to be the hunter/gatherer, and to be the best hunter/gatherer.

The difficult lesson I’ve learnt this year is that we should instead perhaps focus on being the best partner and father first (or whatever this other ‘job’ is for you).

In the scheme of things, no one really cares how good of a hunter you are. But the important people care about how good you are at your first job.