Sanjeev Gandhi is an analytically-minded management consultant at PwC. Having spent most of his 20’s and 30’s travelling the world on business, he's since discovered that his analytical mind, so valuable in business, can be both a help and a hindrance in fatherhood. He lives in London with his wife and three-year-old daughter.
It's definitely softened me and made me appreciate things more. I work in the city which is elitist. When you have kids you're reminded that everyone’s just trying to do the best thing they can, whatever their aspirations. I think it makes you more accepting, you realise everyone has their own story and their own challenges that you just don’t know about. Having a child makes you realise that and it softens you.
My priorities have changed. My time with her is a priority. I don't want her to get to 16 and not know who I am. She might have spent time with me but if I've not really been present in that time, if I've always had my mind on other things, then she won't know who I am. That’s a place I don't want to end up in.
At the birth itself, I was in awe of the miracle of life. Being part of the birth you're amazed. Suddenly you're holding a baby, it's overwhelming - it's so difficult to articulate. Then suddenly it flips into responsibility!
Being a dad: what I find amazing is the level of love that grows. When you have a child your love for them just keeps growing. It’s overwhelming. The fact it keeps growing I find intellectually interesting. Before kids, you've had romance, you're in love. When you have a child it's a different type of love, despite the tantrums and frustration, the love grows. Before you have a child you just don’t understand how much you can love someone.
It certainly gave me a new found respect for my parents too. You suddenly realise what they must have sacrificed, but also the love they have for you. You finally understand it and you know how much they love you because you feel the same for your child.
There's two things. The first is letting them make their own mistakes, letting them fall over so they learn. You want to do everything for them, but you can’t because that would be cotton wool parenting and I don’t think that’s right. The more you do, the less they learn. So when I take her to the playground on my own, I let her climb up the slide the wrong way. Sometimes she falls off, but that’s OK. Well, it’s actually a problem when I'm not there because then I get into trouble with my wife!
The more you do, the less they learn.
It might sound like a hard statement, but I want my daughter, not to appreciate failure, but to understand what it means. I want her to learn how to get back up on her own two feet and grow from it.
The second is a big one for me. One of my biggest challenges is codifying and over-analysing everything. It's a problem because sometimes there's no rational reason for what they’re doing, they’re just having a tantrum. I find that if I try to understand things too much I lose the essence of the experience. At one point my wife pointed out that I was always asking 'why?’. I realised I was always looking at the moment, not being in it. Instead I try to let go and enjoy it. Appreciate it.
...if I try to understand things too much I lose the essence of the experience...
We talk to each other a lot. We share things we've learnt about our daughter, what's working with her, what's going to cause a meltdown. But it’s hard because we just don't get time for each other as now it's all about our daughter. So we're trying to carve out that time. I think it helps having been together a long time before having kids, because we've got that history, there's more give. We've had quality time together and we know we'll get it again, we've just got to work at it now.
We've both worked really hard in our careers, so are fortunate enough that my wife’s been able to take a career break while our daughter’s young. This doesn't mean that I haven’t changed my approach to work though. It’s important for me to see my daughter every day. I'm in work at 7 am so I can leave at 6 pm and be back with her for 30 - 45 mins in the evening. I drop her to nursery once a week too, which is really important because I want to see her routine and be involved in her life. Every Friday we're in Pizza Express for 6 pm without fail. We've always done it and it's become a ritual start to our weekend. My daughter doesn't know the days of the week, but she knows that when we go out for dinner, we're together as a family for the next two days.
We come from an Asian culture where there's a huge pressure to be in the professions – a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. For us though, we have no expectations like that of our daughter. We just want her to fulfil her potential, we want her to be happy and follow her own path. We're very lucky, she's got a zest for life, as long as she keeps her essence and has fun, I'll be immensely proud.
We challenge ourselves a lot. She's in Montessori, next up is primary, and so we're looking at what’s the best choice for her. For us it's not all about league tables, it's the right environment that will allow her to be herself. Somewhere that will nurture her and not be too dogmatic or prescriptive.
I think it’s important that children are in environments like that, where their strengths are the focus, not their weaknesses.
One of the things I practice at work is developing your strengths. People tend to focus on their weaknesses, but actually you're better if you focus on your strengths. Like a music school - you go there because you're good at music and that's the environment that can take it to the next level. It's finding that mix of somewhere that will build on their strengths, but not at the expense of their enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy it, in the end you won’t be as good as you could be.
It makes you want to be a better person, because you're a role model, you want to show the best side of yourself. It’s made me more conscious of who I am and how I interact with people. I hold myself to account more now. I also actively try and learn more from the people around me, my partner, my family, friends, other parents.
It’s made me re-evaluate my values, what I stand for and what I want my daughter to learn from me when I’m at home. Conversations like this make me think about what I want her to remember about her childhood. When I think it through it becomes pretty simple; you have to get in there, you can't be on the side-lines.
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