A New Dad’s Guide to Surviving the First Year at Work
A year ago, Digital Strategist Dustin Carper and his wife welcomed their son into the world. This is an account of his first year as a working father at TMP Worldwide.
My son is learning to walk right now; in a way, so am I. It’s also taken me four times longer than normal to write this due to getting sidetracked by a hand-foot-and-mouth scare, his first real flu and fever, and adapting to my new normal as a parent.
I’ve learned a lot about how I work over the past year becoming a father, some things by choice due to lack of sleep or overall cognition abilities, and some I’m only realizing now that I look back. I’ve also been fortunate to work for a company that understands the life of a working parent.
I’ve found I’m more honest and open with coworkers, that I’m more efficient at my job because time is at a premium now, and the flexibility of working at TMP has allowed me to be both the father and employee that I want to be. I’ve bought all the dad shirts I need, wear loafers more often than I’d like to admit, and generally dress as if I’m ready for a golf game to break out at any minute. I’ve also learned a few things about navigating my work and home lives.
Get rid of the guilt
I’m more honest with coworkers now. I work in an environment where people know about my family obligations and everyone is supportive of that. When I am tired or stressed due to lack of sleep, they have empathy. Some have been there and some have not, but they all get it.
Just a few weeks ago, I had to leave work early to pick up my son from day care and had to bow out of a few meetings. The team had no issues with my absence and emailed me the notes they took. I was able to read and respond later that night when everything calmed down a bit more. I think most parents feel guilty about these things sometimes, but working at TMP really helps with that.
Take a walk
I’ve also found that I’m much more efficient at my job because, well, I have other important things in my life now. During the week, I have about 90 minutes a day with my son and I want to make the most of that. Due to this, I know that I simply won’t be available to work as much at night. This has forced me to make decisions faster during the workday and to solve problems much more efficiently.
Working in TMP’s Chicago office affords me access to many of our internal teams, and I’ve learned to start walking over and talking to people if I have a question rather than waiting for email responses. This may seem simple, but actually leaving my (shared) office and walking to discuss something with our Inbound Marketing or Media teams saves time and gives me the bonus of making new work friends.
Go with the flow
The flexibility that TMP offers has helped me navigate my son’s first year of life in innumerable ways. First off, I’m treated like a professional and the company trusts that if I need to leave early or come in late, that I will make up that time somewhere else and it won’t affect any timelines.
To that same point, I can also work from home (within reason, of course) for more serious issues. We don't have family nearby, so there have been a few occasions where my wife and I have taken turns throughout the day hiding in the bedroom for conference calls and meetings and taking the lead on a sick baby. One time I remember taking a conference call from home and forgetting to put the phone on mute when I wasn’t talking. A few minutes into the call and someone predictably asks, “Is that a baby crying?” Yep, please repeat everything that you said because that’s my son crying as I’m trying to change his diaper while you’re talking about the results of our media campaign.
Be selfish sometimes
TMP also has a summer-hours program that allows us to take a few Fridays off between Memorial Day and Labor Day as long as client timelines aren’t affected. I’ve used these days in the past few months to attend my son’s school play, play a round of golf, and even went to a Cubs game last week. This has helped to rebalance me mentally, gives me more than 90 minutes a day with my son, and gave my wife and I an opportunity for a fun day date. Needless to say, we hadn’t done that in a while.
Based on the job description, I knew this role aligned with my goals and would help me advance my career in employer branding. What I didn’t realize, until after my son was born, was how crucial these benefits are. Having a team of people that supports you, in all the new situations life presents, has proven invaluable.
You don’t have to be a new parent or even a parent-to-be to benefit from these lessons. It’s important for any employee seeking work-life balance to find a job that fits their lifestyle. So whether you need to race to pick up your child at day care, or make an emergency trip home to let your roommate’s dog out, working somewhere that supports you through all of life’s unexpected turns will make your journey much easier.
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