Friday at 2:00 PM I sent my last work off and hell week ended. I don’t mean, the week from hell, I mean it was a week where a lot had to get done and the brunt of the burden rested on my shoulders. There was no other choice: To meet the commitments to authors and client projects– we had to push through.
Each day had three shifts with three unique task lists:
- First shift – 7a-2p – Normal work.
- Second shift – 3p-8p- Project 1
- Third shift – 9p-2a – Project 2
Between Sunday and Friday I squeezed in 14-16 hours of work each day. It wasn’t pretty but it worked.
Sending off the last project on Friday was a combination of pride… “Yeah, baby. I still got it.” And exhaustion… “It’s better if I don’t talk to people, I’m tired.”
I am fortunate. Work weeks like that are rare. And I work at home… so while I may have been grinding out hour after hour, I was at home among my family. I was able to drive the kids to school, have dinner, watch cartoons with Jackson, go to “Back to School Night,” and stuff like that. Home but busy in my living room office is quite a bit easier to handle than if I were away from home 14 hours per day for a week.
A Nagging Reality
Friday at 2 PM I shifted gears. The last project was sent off and I zoomed to my local oil change joint before grabbing 40 pounds of ice and frantically packing the van.
Several months ago we identified this weekend for our fall camping trip to Idylwild. When I saw project deadlines come in as September 15th I thought maybe it’d be better to cancel the fall camping trip?
I’m glad we didn’t. I’m glad I forced myself to finish everything in time to go without having deadlines hanging over me. I’m glad I was able to turn my email off at 2 PM and just hang out with my family (and the Reams), and rest.
Like a lot of dads I’m often overcome with wondering how to balance it. On the one hand, this is go time for me professionally. On the other, I have three kids who are growing up fast.
This isn’t some theoretical thing or some sort of existential angst. This is really wondering, “Holy crap. Am I blowing it as a dad right now?”
Sometimes, just keeping it real, I get a nagging feeling that I am actually blowing it. I worry that I’m so lost in my own stuff that I run the risk of waking up for high school graduations or that a major problem will confront me like smelling salt, “Huh? How did you get to be 16 years old and in this problem? I thought you were 9?”
The 5 R’s for Busy Dads
So how do I deal with these nagging feelings? How do I detect the difference between pushing through a tough week and creating a big problem. How do I know if it’s time for a big re-adjustment? How do I know if I’m actually blowing it or if I’m just being a sensitive cry-baby who listens to too many older men sharing their regrets?
For me, I’ve been here before. I’ve pushed too hard in the past. And I have seen the negative implications of it.
So I’ve got a little thing I look at every-so-often which helps me do minor course corrections along the way.
Seriously. You need to look at this from a tempered perspective. Sometimes you really need to actually relax, take a day off and sleep, before you can really discern if you are blowing it or not. It’s easy to think you’re failing when bad things happen at home. But relax. A tired decision is often a bad decision. Relax…
Have emotions. Mr. Tough Guy is a jerk. Express your feelings because keeping them in isn’t helping anyone. Explain (don’t justify) what you are trying to do. Explain why things are important to you. Help the family connect the dots between what you are doing and the long-term goals of the family.
But also listen actively. Ask open ended questions and shut up. Hear and see what’s really going on. Seek outside counsel (from someone with a good family) to help you see stuff you are having a hard time seeing and hear stuff you have a hard time hearing.
In the midst of working hard there’s always time to reflect. Some of my most introspective times actually come when I’m deeply embedded in a project. But I also find driving from place-to-place an excellent time to reflect. Even in long meetings I tend to let my mind wander and reflect on stuff at home.
When reflecting, think about conversations, things you’d wish you could say better, moments where you could have encouraged your children better, celebrated with them, spent time in their world. Don’t do those things to feel guilty about what you’ve done or not done since you can’t change the past. (Though you may need to go back an apologize.)
But reflect so that you’ll better respond in the moment next time.
Times of intense busyness are going to happen. That’s just part of being an adult.
But also make time to intentionally reengage. Be spontaneous. Grab a ball and play catch. Take a kid out for a smoothie. Show up at their games. Go to the beach and build a sand castle. It’s easy to fall into the trap that you are too big to play… but remember there’s nothing more manly than playing with your kids.
I’ve even found easy times of re-engagement in involving my older kids in my work. They make a little money and spend a lot of time with dad when they help me around the office or go to a speaking engagement to sell books. I sneak in one-on-one time whenever I can.
When you take notice of bad habits make a commitment to yourself to change. Normally, these are course corrections rather than major changes. But ask yourself: If something was serious and I needed to make a major course correction, am I willing? I find even having that posture that I would make a big change if I needed to helpful.
Here’s the kicker, dads
We haven’t blown it… yet. Be encouraged in that.