This June’s Mantra: Broad your perspective. Connect the dots. Do the work. Repeat!
Being new is challenging: sometimes it sucks, oftentimes it compensates. This June has been all about being new at stuff, and finding ways to creatively handle tough situations as a Person, as a Mother, as a Professional, as a Family member.
June was J’s first full month at daycare, and it’s brought about yet another round of readjustments for the entire Family. From nap times to meal plans, we had to reinvent the bloody wheel quite a lot, while fighting off a shocking amount of running noses and instantly caught colds in only a month’s time. We had to let go of things. I’ve had to let go of things. Routines. Mid-day quiet times. A regime I felt comfy in. However, in retrospect, I’ve gained so much more than I’ve had to abandon. I’m richer. Fuller. Calmer with less. More confident. We all are.
Jason is gradually entering a Community. He’s building his own Network outside the Family core. There’s other names in his life now. There’s stories. There’s shared crackers and mischief. Games played and favorite teachers. Birthday gifts and bicycle rides. At age three, in only a month’s time, he traded his morning sleepy headedness with an unparalleled enthusiasm to “rush to see his friends”. That alarming (deeply Orwellian) phase which had him pondering “if there exist other kids out there” (true story and actual question posed having experienced most of his life in a pandemic-imposed lock-down amidst the company of his parents and grandparents alone!) is now part of a not-so-distant-yet-so-far-away past.
This dynamic of communal re-entry, that feeling of bliss I got to experience myself last week when I actually went out to have dinner with my new colleagues from work, that is the power of the network. That rejuvenation after the long introspection. A lock-down got us largely disconnected. Now that the pandemic is giving us a (summer?) break, the network is allowed to resume. To set us free.
Speaking of the impact of networks, who better than my dear friend Richard, a Dad of two (who is also part of a team that empowers businesses to be successful by hacking the world of informal organizational dynamics and hidden networks!) as this month’s How He Does It featured working Parent. Broadcasting live from Copenhagen, Denmark, Richard is actually Dutch! Still, he makes me reminisce of a book I got to read while pregnant: What do the happiest people in the world know about raising confident capable kids? Let’s ask a Dutch who has spent a more than a decade among them, shall we?
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello, my name’s Richard. I am the Head of Quality, Innovation & Learning at Innovisor – a company that uses Organizational Network Analysis to unlock the value of the hidden People assets inside Organizations. We serve clients from all over the world from our office located in the North of Copenhagen, Denmark.
That is also where I live with my wife and two kids of 7 and 8 years old. And no, we do not live at the office, but we only live four kilometers from it. So, in case of escaping my home office during the COVID-19 lockdown, I go by foot, by bike, or even sometimes by skateboard to the office.
Stemming from your personal experience, what is the toughest part of being a Dad, and how do you manage it?
Rather than translating my experience into “tough” moments, I see these more like moments in which I was “stretched thin”. My kids – Annabelle and William – only have 15 months in between. So, there were many sleepless nights, many mouths to feed, and many diapers to change. How to manage these moments in which I was “stretched thin”?
I think it is all about togetherness. You need to do it together! Parenthood is however like running a Marathon. That is why you need to find ways to also give each other the freedom to disconnect. To also enjoy the moments outside of Parenthood because it is OK to be selfish.
That is also how we kept our well-being at a high level. We kept having good energy because we also did things outside Parenthood. I believe that the personal well-being and the good energy we kept as Parents were observed by our kids and they learned to become happy, curious, and caring kids.
Who is (are) your go-to person(s) when you need support as a Father? What type of support are you mostly in need of?
It depends on whether you need support from someone for your first kid, or for your second kid.
After we got our first kid, I mainly sought help & advice from my Mother. I knew that I just did not know. And I knew that my Mom had been through the same situation. And she had raised her own wonderful family. So, my Mother was my trusted expert who helped me to make sense of this new situation.
After we got our second kid, I sought help & advice from a more diverse group of people. From my brothers, friends, to family members. I saw them as the people who could bring me many signals or perspectives because the dynamics between both my kids were something new and unique. You can always find someone who can give support about how it is to be the oldest? But is this relevant when the youngest is only 15 months younger? So, these people were my trusted peers who helped me to make sense of this unique situation.
What’s the No1 Skill (or Ability, or Knowledge) you have found handy in your role as a Father?
I already briefly mentioned that kids observe, imitate, and learn. That is why I think empathy is the number 1 skill you need to have. When your kids are still very young, let them mimic a loving behavior.
When your kids are getting older, I believe communication is important. Their worlds have expanded enormously. Your kids are not only influenced by the parents anymore. They are influenced by the people they meet at school or the sports club. The communication is not only about the parents talking with the kids. It is also about the kids talking with the parents. So, for me, I believe listening is a key aspect of being empathetic.
What advice do you have for a new Dad?
Parenthood is complex. I am sure you will have moments that you feel guilty. You will feel guilty whether you did enough. Or you feel guilty whether you made a difference?
All the questions – and feelings – will be a part of your journey. It is good that you have these feelings because that shows you reflect and grow into your role as a new Dad.