How to Be a Great Parent Even When Your Professional Life is All-Consuming

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One thing I come across regularly in my coaching sessions with high-powered, successful professionals in the Silicon Valley is that they care. They care incredibly about their children but often feel unsatisfied about what role they’re taking on as a parent.

They feel guilty.

A constant complaint is that they never seem to have enough time and wish they could spend more of it with their kids. Professional pressures are a common obstacle to overcome in order to spend quality time with your family.

So we work on how to become more involved in their family life as well as how to manage time more efficiently.

If you struggle with balancing the needs of your children and professional responsibilities, this post will hopefully help you find some solutions for tipping the scales in your family’s favor.

Time is a Choice

First and foremost, I need to point out that spending time with your children is a choice. Every single person can make the choice to spend more time with their children, no matter their profession or what situation they might face.

Granted, at times, it is a very difficult choice to make, but it is a choice that is only constricted by the choices you’ve made around your lifestyle – your need to make a certain amount of money or maintain a certain type of reputation in the professional world.

Spending time with your children is a choice. Tweet this

Those types of things are up for grabs and all of them are areas where you have the ability to change.

If you’ve made the choice that spending real, relevant time with your children is important for you, then this post is written for you.

Make the Time You Have Count

Love and Trust - Father tosses his confident daughter into to air accompanied by screams of delight.

I work with clients on teaching them how to manage their network relationships in such a way as to get more out of them. As a relationship expert, I always focus on the connections that are most important to us. In Silicon Valley, I’ve found that inevitably leads to the family.

This makes real sense for your professional life because family is the foundation that provides us with the strong emotional state we need to handle difficult situations wherever they might arise, including professional challenges.

Keeping a good balance and deciding that a main objective for your relationship management is to focus on your family is a no-brainer.

Most everyone has experienced some periods of professional pressure where your life simply doesn’t afford you the luxury of extra time with your children. During those periods, it’s vitally important that you make the most of the time that you do have with them.

Being Present

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their kids is that they tend to drift off toward other responsibilities during the time they should be fully engaged with their children. They check their emails, think on how to solve a particular work problem, and try to come up with introduction ideas.

I have two young children, ages two and five, and I know how easy of a trap thinking about work is to fall into.

Children crave your presence, not only physically, but mentally as well. If you’re drifting off when you’re with them, they notice. Kids are incredibly perceptive little individuals and they can almost instantly sense the slightest shift in vibe when you’re with them.

Physically, it’s easy to be present. Being present mentally can be especially challenging because we’re used to trying to multi-task.

Here’s a secret: Multi-tasking in the brain isn’t really possible. You can’t do it. That’s why texting and driving is considered impaired driving. And when you try to do it when you’re spending time with your children, that time becomes impaired as well.

If you truly want to be present, the following simple tips and methods can help you fully focus on what matters: Your family.

The Ritual of ‘Coming Home’

One of the most powerful things you can do is develop a ritual around coming home from work. It helps when you prepare yourself to block out distractions. It also serves as a welcome reminder that your children are waiting to see you.

That ritual of coming home can have several phases or aspects to it. You just need to find the right mix of what works for you.

Find Your Threshold

What I mean by threshold is to find a physical landmark that serves as your trigger to start transitioning into ‘being home.’

For people in South Bay, especially VCs, it might be crossing Highway 280 to get to Portola Valley or Woodside. If you’re working in downtown San Francisco, there’s probably a bridge or major intersection you always cross on your way home. Use these landmarks as the point at which to begin your ritual.

The ritual is very simple:

Once you reach that point, just start mentally letting go of any business-related thoughts and start thinking about your family. Wrap up the days’ business thoughts and begin thinking about what you’re going to do with your kids and spouse. Start getting excited about reconnecting with the people for whom you care so much about. You should be thrilled to be able to spend time with them, almost to the point where you’re getting giddy at the thought of arriving at home.

It might take some effort at first. But if you let those thoughts condition your mind, the process takes hold quite fast.

It may sound a little funky, but it truly does work. Try it once or twice and be aware of the difference it makes.

Getting Out of the Car

As you arrive home and get ready to exit your car, start removing any of the triggers that could pull your mind away from being present.

A very simple thing is to turn off your phone. Don’t just put it on silent or vibrate – turn it completely off.

Take a deep breath and relax your body. Take a quick survey of how your body feels and try to release any physical tension. If it takes a little longer to relax, take as many breaths as you need to feel a sense of calmness before you open the car door.

For those that have learned to do this and practice it regularly, they report it gets incrementally easier each time it’s performed. This lets them fully relax and get ready to enter the house.

Entering the House

Day 32 - What Lies Beyond

Now you’re ready to pass through the door to your house. Think of your house door as a portal. This is your Rubicon. The moment you pass through it, you are committing to being present at home.

Be present…be present…be present.

Try to make it a habit. You’ll find that spending more time thinking about being present is sometimes all it takes to achieve your goal.

It’s a simple mind-hack, but it’s also a very powerful one.

Greeting your Family

Don’t be nonchalant about coming home. Make it a habit to celebrate your arrival and excitement to see your family.

Don’t just ask ‘what’s up?’ or give a simple ‘hello.’ Greet each one of your family members in a meaningful and heartfelt way.

A trick here is to greet the children and then go to your spouse and give them a hug. Let that hug linger longer than a ‘normal’ greeting hug. Make it matter. Use it to let your spouse know ‘I’m here now and I care about you.’

Being at Home

Now that your phone is off and you’ve greeted your family, place your phone (it should still be turned off) in a charger in a place where it’s not visible or easily accessible. Tell yourself you won’t turn it on until the kids are in bed or at a much later point in the evening than when you arrive home.

Turning it off and placing it where it won’t be a mental intrusion will now require an extreme effort and conscious decision on your part to access it. Don’t worry; it will still be there later.

Now, use that time and spend it with your children. Do activities that they enjoy doing and do them enthusiastically. Be attuned to your children’s laughter. Help them solve their homework. Be available for real conversation. They’ll usually guide you in figuring out what they need and what’s important to them.

Tell yourself that it’s OK to not think about work. Enjoying time spent with your children shouldn’t elicit any feelings of guilt. In fact, it should be quite the opposite.

Nobody’s Perfect

Setting these goals are important. Achieving them consistently can be difficult.

One piece of advice here is to set yourself up for victory rather than paving a path toward defeat. With business events or other commitments, it might not be realistic to expect to do this every night of the work-week. Commit to your ritual on the nights where you are able to be home.

Don’t try to be perfect. There will be times when you will fail. Learn to accept failure as part of your efforts and you’ll find that you’ll achieve success more often than not. And the rewards of your successes will truly be invaluable.

Good luck, and if you do try some of these techniques, please write me with any feedback you have on your experiences. I’d be eager to hear how they work for you.

Cheers,

Patrick

Image Credits:

Father and Daughter: Mike Baird

Doorway: Chris Costes

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2016-11-25T12:04:31+00:00

About the Author:

Patrick Ewers is the founder and CEO of Mindmaven, an executive coaching firm and educational platform focused on helping startup CEOs, executives and their team members achieve their fullest potential and generate game-changing opportunities by better leveraging the most valuable relationships in their network.

5 Comments

  1. Brook March 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    You aren’t acknowledging the vast number of children kept from one parent by the other parent and the flawed family courts. It’s a huge problem. Fatherlessness contributes to a myriad of social ills. This is widespread even among the wealthy.

  2. Judy March 8, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for sharing this. It reminds me to be present, to let go of the chaos of the day and spend time with those who make our lives so rich in the first place. We “work to live”, not always “live to work”…

  3. Gordon Ritter March 13, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Beautifully written Patrick! We have discussed the “portal” idea and the long hug and they work! The landmark idea on the way home is another valuable step toward the challenging “presence”. Thanks for sharing these passions and insights with us. You are so good at getting to the core of what is blocking those around you.

  4. Ed Zschau March 21, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Some great thoughts Patrick. I appreciate some of the simple, but powerful, steps you suggest to transition from work to being with the family. I like the paradigm of the ‘portal’ as the transition step. Thanks for sharing these ideas. Will look forward to reading more from your blog.

  5. Luap June 19, 2014 at 8:29 am

    This is so superficial its ridiculous. If the job is “all consuming” turning off your phone for several hours everyday is not even an option. This is like saying the answer to world peace is to stop shooting, its a bit more complicated don’t you think?

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