When our son arrived, we were living a normal life in Sydney. I was the Director of social media at an independent agency and my partner was a digital director of a custom publishing division at one of Australia’s biggest magazine houses. We both worked very hard and our son was in day care.
Now, it’s very different. If I manage my work, if I’m on point, then I can pick him up from school, go to Brighton beach, ride a bike, have a pizza and be back home for a programme and bed.
Our son was three and I had a job offer to work with Ogilvy in London. So the plan was to travel overland to London over six months, the three of us. But it all got disrupted and I ended up in Indonesia with Ogilvy.
On a scale of 0 – 100 of work goodness, it was a 10. Working 80 hour weeks, 6am – midnight, Monday to Sunday. It was insane. I did it for six weeks. A profound experience. On the day I terminated my contract, by mutual consent, it was my son’s first day at school. Because I didn’t have a job, I no longer had a working visa. This day, which should have been a milestone, proud-filled moment for a parent, wasn’t. I was there in body but not in mind, I wasn’t present. I was so emotionally broken because of work, mixed in with a sense of dreaded uncertainty about what we would do for work that I just couldn’t be part of it.
It was an experience that changed me in so many fundamental ways.
It forced me to realise what I would and would not sacrifice for work. I’m clear about my priorities now with employers. My family comes first, work second. It’s not what an employer wants to hear, but it’s true and I believe in being honest.
It also triggered a remote working opportunity for my partner, so even though we’re in the UK, she works for a brilliant content marketing agency in Australia. I also work part time as a Social Strategy Director for the same agency.
Juggling it all does cause me a headache. I could go and work for a digital agency here, crack on with a ‘normal’ job, but it’s not where I want to be. Now I’m in the process of carving out a working life that works for my family. I’m trying to live an intentional life really.
I know that in the future what I want will change, and I’ll adjust my life accordingly, but right now it’s wicked to be able to drop him off at school, hang out chatting to other parents and pick him up after school.
Now I have more time I can do things like being on the board of my son’s school. I’m using my experience to help them think about what it means to educate young minds around technology.
I've worked to get it this way, so now I’m working on crafting a freelancer career around my life. My bigger goal would be to find a lifestyle like my wife’s, she can work from wherever. I want us both to be remote, so we can just go off and have 10 days in Portugal.
When it feels terrifying, scary and like it will fail miserably, it’s also really exhilarating. My wife and I get to spend time together, not as husband and wife, but as those two uni students we were when we met. The freelance life is hard when the work in Australia picks up because sometimes it’s 10pm - 5am and has to get done. That’s when this freelance life feels like failure. My wife does this late night every night.
We’d been trying for 18 months and were going through the ups and downs of wondering if children were even possible. It happened when we were both manically busy in the middle of organising a film festival, I can’t even remember looking at her lustfully! After the festival, she went to Tasmania with a friend. I remember the moment vividly. I was having a beer with a friend and got a text from her. An image of a positive pregnancy test kit. At first I couldn’t work it out. When I did I was overwhelmed. Much drinking ensued!
Hospital was a planned C section, so it was totally controlled – appointment booked and everything. I was in the operating theatre and the surgeon asked if I’d like to take a look. I just remember seeing her body cut open, it was like a mindbending anatomy class. I was flabbergasted. Then the surgeon reached in and pulled our son out. I remember wondering how the hell he’d come out of such a small space. My partner said she’d never seen that look on my face before or since, both horror and a smile the size of Japan on my face.
I remember seeing my partners’ mum holding our son and being conscious that I was no longer just someone’s son but I was now someone’s dad. I still have moments now, 6 years in, where I'm like ‘holy shit I'm a dad!’.
I've got wonderful parents, mum’s passed away now, but she's still very much an influence. They did a great job, really knocked it out the park. My dad’s not that talkative, he’s Scottish and came from a family that didn’t talk about emotions and that stuff. As I've become a dad, I've talked to him about being a dad but there's not much scope for having those conversations with him, because he doesn’t talk about that stuff. I want to be more open with my son, to be more emotionally discursive with him, not because I felt a lack of that with my dad, but it’s closer to my personality.
I’m more patient and less patient at the same time. I’m more emotionally exhausted, so I'm less of a better partner, brother, uncle than I could be, because my energy is going elsewhere. I'm an extrovert, so I get my energy from other people, but I also need space and time by myself to recuperate. I've learnt more about looking after myself and being more emotionally present. I'm better at being present and at being a child, although I’m not generally as close to my childlike energy as I'd like to be. I bring a serious, analytical Scott to the parenting table, but I'm embracing a more playful aspect of being a human. Having a 6 year old reminds you of the joy of playing with no outcome, or value. It’s nice to find spaces for that.
I’m more conscious of waking up each day and being present now. I start each day with a blank slate and think about what kind of dad and husband I can be. Some days I get it wrong, some days it goes right.
Generally I wake up early, I try and read something, but there’s no set regime. Sometimes I meditate, which is about getting out of my head and into my body, connecting with it. I try and write down a sort of bigger goal that I would like to achieve that day, not a task, but something like I want to do so I can finish the day happy. It’s not particularly profound; it might be getting my son outside for instance. Usually I try and write something down. I almost never read it but the act of doing it really works.
I’ve been doing it for years now. It stems from times in life when I felt broken and needed to do personal work to look after myself. Now as a dad, things feel more pressing. If I don’t have my own shit together I can’t be the person I want to be in all my relationships. It renews my focus of being intentional about the life I want to lead.
This is also a question about what dad is for. I want to have a really honest and fruitful relationship with my son. We take a lot of things for granted, just because there’s shared blood doesn’t mean the relationship will follow.
If you're able to sustain any relationship over a life time it’s a bloody big achievement. I hope that when I'm old, grey fat and dribbling, my wife and son are still there and we can have a laugh. The other side is my son is a great individual, successful and doing great things, but that can only happen if we build a really valuable relationship – me and him, her and him, me and her, me, him and her.
We put pressure on ourselves, but also need to remember that being a dad is important, special but isn’t everything. It needs to be put in the context of all the other relationships and my son needs to know the world doesn’t revolve around him. I hope I'll have the wisdom, courage, lack of ego to let go and let him be the person he needs to be. That will look like success, even if it’s only a fraction of that.
I don’t know really. My first thought is it’s just part of the joy that goes along with the crazy rollercoaster ride, every day you learn 500 things about yourself, your child, your partner and the world.
It makes you grow as a human, even when you don’t want things to change. You’re being forced to be a better human being, like it or not. It forces you to consider the bigger questions and you realise you aren’t the only person in the world that matters. Unlike the other big moments in life, like getting married, birthdays, achievements, it’s far more profound. It’s like Copernicus and the helio centric universe. Before he came along everyone though the earth was the centre of the universe, and that kings were the kings of the earth. Copernicus came along and challenged this. He found that we weren’t the centre, the kings weren’t the centre, we’re not that special. Being a parent is the same thing. Humbling and earth shattering all at the same time.
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