Brain Balance of a Working Dad by Brian Ballantyne
It's been great to have a guest blogger on this site this week.
We're very lucky to have Brian Ballantyne, a working father in an international tech company, with two children aged 12 and 10 sharing his thoughts with us about the mental load of parenting. He's the first person I heard using the acronym PFW (Parenting From Work) so this blog seems very fitting.
Brian is an advocate for Women’s rights and felt it was time for working fathers to have a space to talk about their experiences. He wrote his book 'Confessions of a Working Father' based on his blog that he started on Linked In.
You can buy your copy on Amazon here. All proceeds go to the charity Winstons Wish.
Now my children are both in their double digits, I notice that the stress of being a parent is shifting more from physical to psychological.
When they were younger, it was a physical challenge of attention, sleep-deprivation, presence, scheduling, pick-ups and drop-offs. Now they are getting older, and getting into trouble (at school, and recently with the police), I am finding it a psychological strain.
So for me it's not so much about work life balance but more about "brain balance". Where I am in terms of headspace, not work vs home.
Sure, there has always been psychological anxiety, this isn't a new thing. I worried about my children as they slept, or started daycare. What is different I suppose is that my children have much more physical independence and therefore more privacy over where they are at.
When the nursery, childminder or school rang you up before, it was most likely because of sickness. They still call you up for sickness, but now it is also about behaviour and attitude. And it's not just phone calls, its also emails, letters, visits - it can come from anywhere.
So at any time while I am physically at work, I can still by psychologically parenting. It can be triggered by an "I forgot my key, can you come home?" text message from one of my children, or from seeing an absence mark on the school extranet, or a worry just pops up about them.
Yes, the same can happen in reverse. When I am at home I can have work thoughts on my mind, but at least I can turn off my phone in the evenings so that I can decompress. I am not on call and my job is not life or death, so if an email goes unanswered, I can sleep easy. That isn't always the case for parenting.
Recently the strain got so much that I found myself open to an offer to take up coaching with another Dad who is a qualified coach. I didn't realise I needed it until I tried it. We had a first conversation that already gave me some good mindshifts that helped me not only think about it all differently, but act differently too.
If you are also finding the psychological strain building up, I recommend talking to someone. Most likely you are not alone, and aren't the first or the last parent to experience this. It is helpful to speak with people who have come out the other end and survived to tell the tale.
At the same time, I want to cherish these days. They are growing up so fast, I already miss those baby days, and in the blink of an eye they will be leaving home. Or worse, staying here!