Papa, Can You Play With Me? My Work-Family-Balancing-Act

So, now it’s my turn to have a break from the kids and to get on with some work. I’m sitting in our local pub. It’s a windy afternoon and I’m the only customer (no, it is a very nice pub indeed); I’m looking into a cosy fire and in front of me is my laptop (and yes, there is also a pint in front of me).

It is my break from family and home, but also my work time. Don’t get me wrong: I love being with my children; I was a stay-at-home dad for the last 18 months – full time. But let’s have a look at how this started:

When my eldest son was born, nearly six years ago, my wife and I were playing the classic family role: she stayed home while I worked full time. Very soon we found out how frustrating, stressful and exhausting this was. Days and nights passed quickly and we didn’t see a lot of each other. And when we had a moment, we started to argue about unimportant things, just to make it worse. We basically lived for our weekends and holidays only.

After many discussions and doing the sums on our finances, we decided that I would go part time. Well, things got better. We had more time to ourselves, stress levels went down and we seemed happier with life in general (apart from the fact that we had to watch our bank account even more).

So life went on. Months after I dropped hours we seemed to reach a similar point in being unhappy. Yes, I had more time for our boy and we shared caring for him. But this time I felt quite depressed by the job I was doing. Have you come across this statement by Ellen Goodman?

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.

That’s exactly how I felt: being the hamster in his wheel; doing a job in order to pay bills and to buy things I don’t need. And this show would go on for another 30 or so years. Well, my wife and I made another decision that time. We would swap places. After more than four years of a stay-at-home mum she felt like leaving the house in the morning, meeting new people and doing something different. And I could stay with the kids (yes, by then we had two). Hooorrraaayyyy!

But the boomerang came back to us again. It’s quite ironic: sometimes we (that’s me too) think we solve a problem by ignoring the facts. We change the medicine but don’t want to see what’s actually wrong with the patient.

Our latest work-family-model lasted for 18 months. Then we did something we should have done so much earlier: We left the classic work-family-model. Now we both work and we both parent. We don’t give our creativity, energy and time to a company anymore (who will say thank you in form of a minimum wage salary); this time we go our own way: we are self-employed, we work hard (but we love it) and we make sure there’s enough time for the boys AND for us as a couple and individuals.

It’s still very new to us and we have no idea if and how successful we will be. And yes, money is still a worry. But if we don’t try it now, we’ll never know.

The kids love it as well. They seemed a little confused in the beginning, wondering why my wife wouldn’t get up at 6.30am anymore. Now we usually start the day with a family breakfast at 8am. Then we start our “shifts”: mornings, middays, afternoons and evenings. And in between we take breaks, as I have one now. Well, I just noticed that my glass is empty. I’m still the only customer and it shouldn’t take too long to get a refill. Then I’m going back to work!


The Beginning
About Torsten Klaus

I'm a stay-at-home dad with all the good and difficult things about it.
Do you know what I find fascinating? When men/fathers can talk about their feelings and when they show empathy.
We often jump to conclusions, give advice or try to convince people... well, we could change by just listening, by showing empathy and - if appropriate, we could give feedback.
So, I'm here to talk about fatherhood and about the way dads of the 21st century could live a happy, content and relaxed life. Wanna join me? Awesome.

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  1. My wife and I have these thoughts all the time. She is a phenomenal teacher and whenever she puts herself out there for tutoring on the side we get a ton of responses. I’m convinced if we put our minds to it we can start our own tutoring business and free ourselves of the shackles of being working drones for someone else.

    I’m jealous and hope everything works out for your family.

    • @Brad, Thank you for the good wishes. Yes, I think the hardest bit is to overcome the fears and anxieties. And that’s still an issue I have to work on. I feel that I’ve been conditioned all my life long by parents, school, jobs, society. When I grew up, I permanently received that ONE message: Get a job, stay in your job, make career, pay into a private pension plan, buy a house, be happy. And don’t even consider anything else. So, yes, it takes a while and a lot of reflection to free myself from those judgements and expectations.
      I also hope, you’ll find your way – whatever you’ll decide! Best wishes, Torsten

  2. Great read! It’s relieving to know that i’m not the only one out there that thinks about this stuff. And my kid is not even here yet. 3 more weeks. I work from home. My wife will be here for at least the next 3 months. Then what? Questions about money? Time management? This should be interesting. So thankful for all this transparency.

    • Thank you. Wishing you and your wife all the best for the birth and that special time afterwards. Regarding work-life-balance, I really hope you will find a way which will work out for all of you.

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