Becoming a Father Improved the Way I Work
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Just over a year ago, I made the transition from working professional to working father. I expected there’d be changes. I knew that the baby would keep my wife and I up at night, and I expected I’d be bringing that fatigue to work -- not that anyone can prepare you for the sleep deprivation of a child’s first few months.
What I didn’t expect was that adding to my family would fundamentally alter my approach to work. Not in a sappy, “everything is more precious with kids,” way, but in significant ways that actually make me a better marketer.
So yes, like so many new parents, I’m better than I’ve ever been at time management. I’m better at saying no to projects that take me away from time with my family. But I’m better at other things I never expected as well:
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I’m better at developing creative solutions.
When it’s 3 a.m. and the baby is crying -- despite being fed and changed -- what do you do? You get creative. You sing silly songs you make up. You invent games out of the household objects nearest to you. Basically, you do what it takes to get the job done -- no questions asked.
That’s true creativity at work, and I’ve been surprised by how much that mindset has crossed over into my work. When I have an ecommerce client who claims they’ve “tried everything,” but still can’t fix their conversion problem, my mind detects infinitely more possibilities than it did before.
I’m more attuned to big picture thinking.
In a related way, having a kid has stretched my mind to think about broader issues, in addition to quick, creative fixes. Looking down at my daughter pulls my mind in a thousand directions at once. At the same time I’m wondering what she’ll be like when she grows older, I’m thinking about the challenges facing higher education and what I need to do now to help her get through them in the future.
It’s the same way at work. I used to follow a fairly standardized approach to ecommerce conversion rate optimization, testing the same variables I’d identified as being successful in previous cases in a relatively routine sequence. Now, I look broader. I take more factors into account, “seeing” futures for my clients that sometimes they hadn’t even considered themselves. Sure, there are plenty of times when I fall back on my old patterns. But in other cases, my new perspective helps get outside of the box with new ideas.
I’m a better leader.
Any of you reading this who have children know what it’s like to have to make decisions in the face of incomplete information. You have to choose childcare providers with little more than public reviews and background checks to go off of. You choose sleep training methods, decide when to introduce a pacifier and pick from the seemingly hundreds of bottle option -- all with no real guarantees that the decisions you’ve made will wind up being the right ones for your child.
And you know what? That’s a fantastic skill to have in business. I wish I could tell my clients that I was 100 percent confident that my recommendations would produce revenue lifts for them. I’m not -- and I’m never going to be.
But since becoming a parent, I’m better able to look at a situation, choose the best path in light of the information I have, and move forward confidently. I can’t say I never second-guess myself, but I do appreciate how practice via parenthood has eliminated some of the anxiety associated with worrying I’ve made the wrong choice.
It’s made my work easier.
Running marketing campaigns for brands used to seem daunting. Now? Work is almost a relief.
Marketing is infinitely less complex than raising a child. I may still have to make stressful decisions at work, but there’s no one screaming (or worse) in my arms while I do it. Where I expected myself to be more high-strung on the job, I’m surprised to find I’m actually calmer. If I can survive my daughter’s first year of life, there’s little at work that can get me.
Now, I’m not saying all entrepreneurs should run out and have kids just to become better bosses. I’m sharing my story because so much of our dialogue today revolves around how hard kids make it to keep up any semblence of work-life balance. I’ve found parenthood offers me so many advantages at work, and I hope it’s the same for you.