How Do You Sway Between Work, Home and Everything Else Dads Do?

I learned a new phrase last week that allowed a somewhat disjointed birthday to make sense. “Work-life sway.” It’s a phrase I think a lot of working parents could embrace.

Joann S. Lublin uses “work-life sway” in her most recent book, “Power Moms”, and I love the phrase’s elegance. (Joann was a guest on the Bright Horizons Work-Life Equation, with Priya Krishnan and me, which will air in April.) It means the ability to move between work and home with great focus on whichever one takes precedence at that time.

There were birthdays when I was “work-life rigid”. I took the day off from work and that was that. I didn’t have any children and wanted to enjoy the day.

Then kids came along. I tried to carve out time to ONLY do things with my wife or our kids. That worked until the work-life equation got more challenging to balance. I’d feel bad if I did nothing or went off and took a walk by myself. Call it the “work-life guilty” phase.

But this birthday – not anything special in terms of milestones – was one that called for “work-life sway” and I was grateful to know Lublin’s phrase.

Why? There was no way we could do the three things we typically do on anyone’s birthday – celebrate, go out to dinner, get a gift – all on one day.

So, we swayed.

A lot of working parents will get this. And at The Company of Dads, it’s the First Rule of Being a Lead Dad: Whenever you have something planned, particularly if it’s been planned for months and you’re looking forward to it, a work or family event will almost invariably interrupt it.

Here’s how our work-life sway worked.

On Friday, my wife and I went to lunch, just the two of us. I then convinced her to take a walk with me – on a golf course. She loves taking walks, golf not so much – but it was my birthday! But we both had work obligations before and after our lunch that we swayed into and out of.

That night, we went to our middle daughter’s school play and out for frozen yogurt to celebrate her.

On Saturday, we went for a family dinner, seven of us. But before that, we swayed into the normal Saturday hustle that anyone with kids knows. Lots of driving, little peaceful time.

And on Sunday, I got my present, which was tickets for the five of us to see a Broadway show. I picked Back To The Future The Musical – which was as fun and energizing as you’d imagine.

Each morning when I saw my daughters, I struck a pose, arms outstretched, cheesy grin, and they laughed: “Happy 1st, 2nd, 3rd Day of Your Birthday, Dad!”

The sway was key. We rolled with it – good for us working parents, probably better for our kids to show them adaptability.