As in many industries, work in a fast-growing cyber-security firm can blur the lines, with conference calls at 10pm, proposal writing at midnight and 3am incidents a pretty common occurrence – traded against late morning starts and quiet days.
Shortly before the arrival of my first child a year ago, I was worried about how I would adapt these working patterns. Could this fluidity of work possibly continue to be feasible on the arrival of a baby? Or would I be limited to the 9-5 in the office, while the real hard work (being a parent) waited for me at home?
Despite these concerns, one year into being a dad, I might just be getting the hang of it after some hard-learned lessons.
Expect and plan for your performance to temporarily drop
It’s not just the lack of sleep, but also the complete chaos that persists until you start to understand how babies work. As a new dad in the UK I had two weeks’ paternity leave before returning to work – it’s nowhere near long enough to adapt to being a parent, and while my day-to-day job wasn’t really impacted, I could kiss any chance of strategic planning or creative thinking goodbye for a good couple of months. In hindsight it was obvious this was going to happen, but it’s just not something I realised at the time.
Be present – multitasking doesn’t work
For me at any rate, either I can be with my child or I can be working – I can’t do both. As a naive first-time parent I had too many failed conference calls where I thought I could multitask – and quite obviously couldn’t! Now I’ve learned to set boundaries so I can give my child and my work undivided attention.
If you use childcare, choose the best you can afford
If you trust your caregiver you can focus at work – simple as that. Childcare is expensive, but if paying a little extra gives you greater confidence or flexibility around work commitments – then it might just make sense.
Ensure you aren’t a bottleneck
Before having a baby, the ‘surge’ capacity of a late night or early morning is always an option in finishing an urgent piece of work or responding to a crisis. While having an infant doesn’t really change this, it does mean you can’t rely on being able to do it in quite the same way – which is something I had to learn, and quickly. How you deal with this will depend on the team around at work you as well as your family / childcare situation.
Everyone is different
Everyone has a different take on work, being a parent, and being a working parent. The points above would certainly have been useful for me to understand and shape work around my family – but of course your mileage may vary.
One last piece of advice? Enjoy it and good luck!