I was at work (I worked on a website within financial services): my wife called; I took her to the hospital at around 4pm; and our son was born just before 10pm.
I took two weeks’ paternity leave. I remember returning to work feeling as if I wasn’t ready to be back. I’d spent the last two weeks in a bit of a daze, never really sure what time it was or even what day it was.
That’s what all the others dads had told me. I’d joined some exclusive club. As a very non-alpha male, I thought this felt kind of nice.
Fast forward five years
It’s the summer of 2019, and my wife and I were expecting our second child. I’d had a couple of promotions, too, which had intensified my work.
But I loved it. I got a huge amount of satisfaction from what I did. I’d become, dare I say, a “careerist”. To my son, though, I was just “dad”.
On July 11 the big day arrived with a bang. This time it was a very different experience: an unplanned home birth. My wife woke me up at 5am saying “she thought” she might be in labour… Our daughter was born 50 minutes later.
Secondly, work abruptly stopped. My daughter was only a few days early, so it wasn’t a complete shock – but I had expected to be in the office that day. I had a meeting with my MD to talk through a project, and I was also waiting for an update on a restructure. But not any more. It all stopped.
Time to “switch off”
Work were great about it. My boss told me to “switch off” for three weeks, and my team were over the moon for me. What’s not to like? Well, what’s not to like is having to switch off for three weeks.
My family mean everything to me and are incredibly important. And yet work is important too. I get a huge amount of satisfaction, intellectual stimulation and personal development from my job. It’s not something from which I can easily switch off, and I don’t want to.
It’s as fanciful as if someone were to tell me to switch off from my family for three weeks: I wouldn’t know how to action that, either.
So I tried to keep my head in the business game. It was my second child, after all. I was an old hand by now. And my son was at school. I sent a few WhatsApp messages here and there to see how things were going.
“Dan, just relax. Enjoy time away from the office.” “Dan, you need to get your priorities straight, mate.” “Don’t worry about it – it’ll all be here when you get back.” Oh, okay then. I’ll just… make another cup of coffee and watch Homes Under the Hammer, I guess.
From ideation to execution
It’s at this point that the ideation of Career Dad started. But I hadn’t realised it yet. Over the next few days and weeks I kept thinking about the opposing pulls of career and family. I didn’t want to have one at the expense of the other.
I didn’t want to be overlooked for further progression because “he has a new baby and that’s where his priority is.”. At the same time I didn’t want to work so much that I defaulted to being a weekend dad. Why couldn’t I have a successful career whilst also being a present dad?
I thought about it for a day before deciding to post a video on LinkedIn, basically saying I’d had an idea for something I was going to call Career Dad. The premise was to connect guys who are passionate about their careers, but not at the expense of family.
I said I wasn’t sure what it would look like, but wanted to know if it was of interest to anyone. I didn’t expect the response. An outpouring of messages from dads – across industries and seniority levels – saying YES! My inbox was flooded.
In September 2019 Career Dad was formed. The website launched, featuring articles about being a father, work-life balance, mentoring and career progression. A month later, a weekly interview-style podcast launched – The Career Dad Show.
By November I was delivering flexible working workshops to organisations, and joining Diversity and Inclusion speaker panels to represent the voice of career-focused dads.
The evolution of Career Dad
It’s now February 2020 and Career Dad continues to evolve. I’m still working with organisations to help them support dads at work. I’m still flying the flag for flexible working. The website continues to grow, and the podcast is on episode 20.
It’s in its infancy, but I’m already working one-to-one with a range of guys who have different needs. Dads looking for help to balance work and family. Line managers wanting to support a flexible working team, but unsure where to start. Or, guys – not even dads – who are keen to progress in their careers and want a sounding board.
When I started Career Dad, there wasn’t a plan. There still isn’t, really. Well, not one that would win an investment pitch, let’s put it like that! However, there is one objective. Just one. Put simply it’s this:
Everything Career Dad does has to align to this objective. It’s not going to change. Year in, year out. Unwavering. To positively impact as many dad’s lives as possible.
Someday it may be painted on an office wall. But for now, I’m more than happy for it to live on my whiteboard at home.