What I Learned When My Wife Went Back into the Office
Over the last two weeks of my life, I’ve experienced a sort of role reversal. One that has left my head spinning, increased the appreciation I have for my wife, and actually changed how I work each day.
I didn’t see it coming, but here’s what happened.
After 10 years of staying at home with our kids while also working from home as an attorney, my wife landed an amazing opportunity to head back into the office full-time. We were psyched about the quality of the firm and I happily agreed to take care of our three children for the time being… in between meetings, emails, and working full time as well. Entrepreneurism already provides the ultimate form of job flexibility, so it made total sense that I take over everything so she could reacquaint herself with being in an office environment without having to also balance the needs of our kids at the beginning of Summer. Plus, I’d be getting more quality time with my kids, and who doesn’t want that?
Well, I’m not going to give away the ending, but let’s just say this job is EXCEPTIONALLY harder than I thought it was going to be! And even though I have an entrepreneurial mindset, I wouldn’t say that I glided gracefully through the first week by any means of the imagination.
Everything happened super-fast and my days immediately now included two different drop-offs in the morning (8am and 9am), two different pickups every afternoon (1pm and 3pm), breakfast, snacks and dinner for three kids… and don’t forget I still have the usual work that has filled my days, every day for the last 18 years of kabookaboo. Now, it’s important to know, I was already a very involved dad in the house with making meals, taking care of the kids, reading stories and what not, so I was like… “I got this!”
Hectic, but not crazy… right? WRONG!!!
First of all, let’s realize that “drop-off” is completely misleading. The collective “they” make it sound as though this task seamlessly fits into your day, and causes zero levels of stress, but it doesn’t. It’s actually the exact opposite… It completely disrupts any flow you’ve developed! Not to mention it doesn’t take into consideration all of the prep to actually get to a drop off like applying sunscreen for camp, helping with bags and more! Oh, and when the drop-offs don’t align, you lose all the time in between because it’s just not enough to actually get something done.
Before you know it, the morning is TOTALLY gone and you’re already umpteen emails and a few phone calls behind on the day!
I’ll spare you the details of how the rest of the day goes and, instead, let’s just say this… I have a completely new respect and understanding for my wife and the work she has been doing for our family while still working from home. Even when she was in between work, this is no joke with three kids. And not just my wife; I have friends that are single parents, and this is the closest I’ve come to walking in their shoes. The job is HARD, it’s chaotic, and at the end of the day, it’s really thankless.
Not only do I have a deeper appreciation for what it takes to make it all work, but It’s also important to recognize that this experience has made me more grateful than ever to be an entrepreneur – not just for the flexibility, but for the ever consistent drive to tackle a challenge, to multitask, to create solutions and to be able to function – even thrive – in complete chaos.
The first days may have been a complete wash as far as productivity goes (three kids are crazy to begin with for all of us that went the family of five route!), but by the end of the first week, I was already a different man… or, at least, a different entrepreneur.
Here’s what I figured out along the way and changed the game for me big time:
I needed to break my day into little pieces to be productive and feel productive. It turns out, I can get a ton done in between drop-offs. I just needed to 1) put my head down and get to work immediately and 2) break my work down into various smaller tasks, so that I was still starting and completing something in the same sitting. I wasn’t finishing tasks from beginning to end, but I was still moving things forward and producing a quality work product I could be proud of. I also sat down with my kids and discussed with them what I wanted them to be responsible for – like packing their own bags for camp – versus what I was going to do like making breakfast. This was a major turn of events and lessened the craziness in the morning almost immediately.
I now wake up early AND go to bed late. That time in the morning and right before bed is awesome to be productive and get organized. When everyone else is sleeping, morning or night, I can get ahead with little to no distractions. In the morning, I’m fresh and ready to go while everyone else is sleeping. I also set things up the night before… This saves a lot of time in the morning and lets me hit the ground running as opposed to running around hitting the ground. We’re ready to start the day and it’s become effortless… rather easier, it’s never effortless! LOL.
The constant moving, running around, and multitasking makes for more excitement, energy and flexibility. Since I started kabookaboo, my life has been fluid. There’s no 9 – 5, no Monday – Friday, and it’s good that way. I work and speak with my team, partners and clients at all hours and I actually have loved that part of my company since the beginning! When I’m busy, my mind is never idle and when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always busy. It actually HELPS me to be busier because the time I do have is now spent on the most important things and not getting lost in some of the details or running down lost causes.
Meditation and mindfulness have been super helpful and necessary. When my head is clear, I can switch gears faster and easier and don’t get thrown off course when things don’t go as planned. Whether it be dealing with a problem at work, or simply going from a conference call to watching something special on Fortnite, meditation and mindfulness have helped a ton. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get enough credit and that’s a shame because it is one of the most powerful tools I’ve come across in my years and it’s totally free. When you can more effectively control your emotions and your thoughts, you can more effectively control your productivity and its outcome.
I’ve made better use of technology. I’ve always loved tech… the latest tablet, the newest phone, but it’s one thing to like this stuff. It’s another thing to put it to work for you. Time in the car is now more productive; handling conference calls and voice memos that I send out that outline tasks that need to get done. Video chat has taken the place of in-person meetings. And, a huge 32-inch monitor has taken the place of my older, smaller screen so my home office looks more like the command station at NASA than a room with a desk.
In the end, this has been an unbelievable experience. The appreciation I have for my wife, friends, and other parents out there is tremendous. I have ended up getting more quality time with my kids, which has been invaluable. And, ironically, I feel like I’m a better entrepreneur because of this, so my business will only continue to flourish.
Most importantly, I’m grateful for what I have and so blown away by what others are capable of pulling off each and every day. It may be a thankless job, but I am officially THANKFUL.