My career path was upended by having kids, multiple times

career identity lifeworkbalance parenting

My career has taken three completely unexpected turns (so far) since I became a dad.   

Here is what they have in common:

-Each one was precipitated by something to do with being a dad

-Each one caught me totally off guard

-I do not regret a single one

-My identity was shaken by the changes

The last one is the key; I did not recognize how entangled my own self-worth and purpose were with my job.

Answering a simple, "What do you do?" when I met someone new was an existential crisis because I didn't have a job that felt like "enough."

I felt paralyzed by a call to be there for my family and a pull to reach my career "potential."  The result was that I was locked in a cycle of shame, guilt, and frustration.

At various times during the process work felt like a waste of time.  Other times I wondered why I didn't feel any desire to climb the corporate ladder.  Sometimes I did push my career forward and found ways to make it work.

Each transition brought its own challenges.  Each one caused me to reassess my values and forced me to understand myself better.

Here's the thing: I think this process is completely normal.  Much more so than anyone talked about to me. 

Having kids is such a momentous event; it is bound to change every aspect of your life in ways you cannot predict.

The transition made me realize that I valued my time and energy much more than my salary.  Money would come and go - time with my kids when they are little is finite and fleeting.

Originally that didn't drive me to quit my job.  Instead, it forced me to consider what really was worth my time to spend away.

I left a stable, dependable job with very clear work-life boundaries for a fast paced startup that eventually flamed out in spectacular fashion.  Like I said before, I never regretted it for a second.

The later transitions were even more jarring. I took a step back from my career to focus on getting four kids back out into the world after the pandemic.  I thought it would be temporary, so I didn't consider what it would feel like.

Not having a job outside the house that paid me, even if it planned to be for a short time, was terrifying.  My first fear was that I would never be able to recover the momentum I had at the time.  My second fear was that I was letting the people in my life that had paved the way for me to get to that spot down.

I still didn't regret it.  I knew that I was doing the right thing for my family.  It just felt awful.

Then came a new curveball. On the same day, my mom found out she had cancer and my son suffered a frightening mental health episode that ended up in the hospital.  The plans for me to return to any job that added stress to our lives were dashed.

That brought me to today.  I need the flexibility to guide my own schedule so I can be there when my family needs me.  I have to figure out how to revise my career plans to get there.  I had to do a lot of work to be ok with all that.

That was the light-bulb moment. This process of understanding how I would have a career as a dad was filled with obstacles and curve-balls.  I had to find my new passion, figure out how to make that into something that I was good at, and reshape my identity. 

That is the work that I bet other parents are struggling with.  I can help them get through that process much faster than I did. I can boil it down into a program that guides them through the transition and provide an outside perspective to speed up the process.

That will be my focus now. Taking people who want to be great parents and continue the success in their career, and helping them find the new path forward to excel in both areas of their life.

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