3 1/2 Lessons From a Month of Parenting While Working

My kids’ last day of camp was August 11, and the first day all three of them were in school was September 6. For those counting, that’s two days shy of 4 weeks of unstructured time without camp, school, or childcare.

Let me paint the picture. First week was Dad Camp – day trips where I took our girls to see friends and family, to do fun things, while my wife worked. Second there was a week at the beach, all five of us. Third there was the week of doctors’ appointments and school-supply buying, where my wife and I tag-teamed. The last days were the typical post-Labor Day feelings of “where did summer go” and “we’re nearly to school!”

Each week was fun, but I could only work in the early mornings, moments in the evening and after everyone was asleep – if I wasn’t asleep too.

It’s been a week since we got into our school year routine. Here are 3 ½ things I learned as a Lead Dad who works full time from a time that was fun but couldn’t have been any busier for my wife.

  • Lead Dads and Working Moms can be great parents and great workers, but we can’t be effective at both without caregiving support – like school or camp or childcare. (Let’s note that we’re pretty fortunate to have sent our children to 7 weeks of day camp, which is really expensive.)
  • Head-down work can have unintended consequences. When I was writing a weekly column, I could write some in advance to take time off. The task was finite. Building a media company, community platform and workplace advocate for families to fulfill their full potential, like we’re doing at The Company of Dads, is infinite.

Where did I screw up? In my head-down, work-when-I-can mode, I set our monthly Lead Dad meetup for last Thursday. Turns out that was the opening game for the National Football League (NFL) – as in the game featuring the reigning Super Bowl champions that the NFL had been advertising nonstop for months. Fumble!

  • Take comfort in not being a hypocrite. By the end of the month, my list of things I owed people was causing me immense stress. I’m a zero-inbox guy, and my unanswered emails kept piling up. I consolidated some into a to-do list, but that was a thumb in the dam. I still haven’t gone through everything. And now I’m worried that some of the people I responded to later that I normally would haven’t emailed back because of my slow follow-up. (I’m hoping they just took some time off too!) But you can’t start something called The Company of Dads and abandon your wife and kids while you build a company to, er, support working moms and be the go-to parent.
  • Be better at being transparent. I should have written one of those pithy out-of-office emails that told people what I was doing and why I was less available. But I was too busy in the lead-up to the month where I’d be ping-ponging constantly. I’ll put it on the to-do list for next year – right after I clear out my inbox!