In our latest guest blog from the #FindYourBalance series, we’ve been chatting with Andy, creator of MadDadSkillz. He has a varied and interesting blog filled with musings, MADventures and more from life with his wife and two children.
Here he share’s the interesting story of how an inanimate object pushed his family forward in finding a better work-life balance. It’s a fantastic read and certainly makes you think about how the small things really do make all the difference…
Two working parents, kids in full-time nursery, not an unfamiliar story.
I’m a military helicopter pilot, my wife is an account manager.
It was fine during the nursery years.
Sure we only saw the kids for an hour during breakfast and two hours before bed, but it didn’t feel that way. We interacted with the nursery workers every day at the 7.30am drop-off and at the 6 pm pick-up we got a little sheet telling us what, or who, they’d played with and how many times they’d pooped.
We felt informed and involved.
Things changed when our son started school. School doesn’t start until 8.50am and finishes at 3.15pm.
Those times don’t work for our jobs or commutes, so we needed before and after school child minding, where they would do the school runs for us.
We never got to be at the school gate.
We didn’t meet the other parents or see who our son gravitates to in the classroom. We missed the off-the-cuff debriefs from the teacher at pick-up. We didn’t even know what his teacher was like.
Of course, we’d quiz our son over dinner but his version of events rarely follows logic, sense, or truth! We felt like suddenly he was spending the majority of time somewhere that we had no connection to.
Then, disaster struck!
My son came home without his book-bag. The school-to-home umbilical cord. The main method we have for passing notes between parent and teacher. How were we to know what reading he should do that evening? What if there had been a change in the Forest School schedule? Should we be packing his wellies or not?! Crisis!
It sounds trivial, and it is. But, it was the manifestation of all our fears about being out-of-touch. My son, 4 years old, couldn’t remember where he’d last had his book-bag. I know this because we drove the route to school slowly, with the windows down, checking the pavement!
The thing was we didn’t even know where to start.
Where do they keep the book-bags?
Does my kid have a hook with his name on it?
Is it in the hallway or classroom?
I couldn’t remember, I’d only been into his classroom once and even then we didn’t know we’d be choosing that school so I’d paid scant attention to details like book-bag lockers.
Had the other kids brought their’s home?
We hadn’t been at pick-up to see and we didn’t know any other parents to ask.
Suddenly, we felt utterly helpless and like uncaring parents who were overly focused on their jobs and neglecting the important details of our son’s new school life.
Something had to change.
It’s difficult to fly a helicopter from home and there is no routine or “standard” day for me, so there was little I could do to amend our situation.
My wife approached her company to see if a solution could be found to allow her to arrange her schedule so she had some consistent contact with the school.
We are fortunate that her employer is family orientated and understands the importance of work-life balance. She now works from home two days a week. It hasn’t shortened her hours or cut her pay, it’s just two days with our home computer instead of at her office, saving her two hours in the car each day.
It has worked wonders.
Due to our close proximity to the school, she can do the drop offs and still be online at the beginning of the workday.
She has met another mum to walk to school with and our kids have become friends. She can put faces to the names of kids our son talks about in the evenings and gets to hear the reassuring “he’s so sweet” from his lovely teacher once he’s given his mum a hug goodbye. She even knows where they store the Book-bags!
On top of that my wife swears she is more productive at home than with the distractions of the office.
With FaceTime, conference calls, and remote servers, she is still every bit the manager and decision maker they pay her to be.
Amazingly, she also manages to squeeze in a load of laundry or a quick hoover here or there. Little things that somehow manage to greatly increase our mental space.
We feel less rushed, like our week is less compacted. Which, in turn, means the kids benefit from less tired and frazzled parents.
Those two days have absolutely helped us #Findyourbalance. We don’t get to see the kids for much more time than before but it feels like it, it feels like we understand their lives again.