Designing A Dad

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What do you say when you see a horse for the first time?  “Hi.”

I have the great fortune to be able to experience my second Father’s Day.  The past year has brought so many monumental changes to my life.  I’ve finally stopped messing around and got my Architecture license, I’ve started my own practice, and every day has brought us a few steps closer to breaking ground on our new home.  I have a few ongoing and new design projects and am so fortunate that Studio m Architecture + Design is a success so far.

All of that is great.

Amid all of this planning for the future and looking forward and preparing for what is next, the most successful aspect of the past year is the shift in my thinking about my time with my son.  Before I started working on my own, my time with Little Guy, as it is with most fathers, was limited to nights and weekends.  Maybe, if I was lucky enough, he would wake up before I left the house, but even then it was just a quick good bye without him even realizing what was going on.  This is the norm.  This is how it is.

Unless you change it.

I Realize that I am one of the lucky ones.  I know that I am one of the few who gets to dictate their own schedule.  We can’t all own our own business and adjust our lives as necessary.  It just wouldn’t work that way.  I’m not suggesting that everyone else is doing it wrong.  There is sacrifice too.  There are more and more nights that I am awake at 2 o’clock in the morning getting work done, paying bills, drafting contracts and a thousand other things that I can’t get done during the day.  It’s a trade off.  It’s balance.

What I get in return for my efforts is that I learn to be the dad that my son wants.  With the amount of time we get to spend together, I see firsthand what works.  What makes him laugh?  What makes him upset?  How can I be the best dad I can be?  Easy.  Know my son.  Not just play with him or feed him or drive him around. . . . but actually KNOW him.  The time I get to spend with him is time that he gets to let me know who he wants me to be (even if sometimes I have to be the guy who lays down the law too).  He gets to teach me while I’m teaching him.

Do the worlds collide?  Absolutely – if you want to look at it that way.  Last week I sent out a design presentation on a potential job that I am looking at.  Of course, the next day I spent the majority of my 9 to 5 with my son, so when the developer called, I had an 18 month old running circles around me while I sat on the floor spinning to keep up.  Option one:  voicemail.  Option two: stick Little Guy somewhere safe and hope he only screams a little bit until I get off the phone.  The unfortunate decision here is ‘who am I putting first?’  If I let the call go to voicemail, it’s obviously saying that my son comes first and work can wait.  If I tie my son to a chair so I can take a call without interruption, it’s because this job is important to me and I need to remain ‘professional’ during work hours.  I want both. . . so Option three was to answer the call and let my client know that today is a day with my son, but that I didn’t want to miss his call.  He’s cool with it, my son doesn’t feel abandoned, and I get to keep my life in balance.  Everyone who I work with knows that I am, at any given time, potentially with my son.  That’s why they have emails sent at 2 AM waiting for them when they get to work.  This is time that I won’t get back if I let it go.

The past year has taught me to continuously pursue this balance.  It’s not easy at times.  There are still meetings that need to exist without a child in sight.  There are still times when the phone just needs to be turned off.  Although I very much look forward to what tomorrow brings, I try my hardest to stay in today.  Enjoy the Now.  Live in the moment when I am with my son as much as I can.  Hopefully he will learn to recognize how important the time together really is.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!  No matter how you’re doing it, make sure to enjoy the minutes. . . because they do run out.

 

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Why workdays no longer exist (and weekdays have gone too)

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“Night to Day” – Tim McLain

It sounds fantastic!  No more workdays and no more weekdays:  the goal of those who retire, win the lottery, or are on permanent vacation.  Mission accomplished, break out the champagne, time to kick my feet up!

Well, maybe not quite yet. . .

In reality, the disappearance of my established work schedule and absence of the much welcome “weekends off” is only an indicator that things are changing and things are actually starting to work.  But now what?  Studio m Architecture + Design has been very fortunate to have landed a few jobs and is actually starting to see some money come back (rather than just flow out in an effort to start the company).  So, you would figure that sitting down at 8 in the morning and working until 4 or 5 would be happening 5 days a week until “TGIF” comes along. . . you would figure.  However, that’s not one of my goals.  In fact, one of the reasons I left the firm I was working for was because I wanted to be able to introduce more flexibility into my life.  Little Guy is almost 15 months old and is into absolutely everything and I LOVE it – especially since I get to be here for most of it.  He joins those of us who are awake from 7AM to 7PM (and that does not work well with a typical workday).  How could any work ever get done then?

I work all of the time – and never.  Could that possibly make sense?  I’ve managed to get rid of “workdays” and “weekends” and any other classification of time that indicates when I should be getting work done.  In some respects, I’ve also managed to blur the lines between night and day and have learned to start thinking of things a little bit differently.  There’s just time. . . that’s it. . . and I get to decide what to do with it.    Some of that time needs to be used to eat, to sleep, and to exercise.  Some of it is allotted to taking care of Little Guy and connecting with my family.  There’s a portion of it that needs to be dedicated to my practice and the jobs I have – and just managing the things that need to be taken care of with the business.  I have some consulting “on the side”.  I have to market the firm and go to events and make sure that I’m always looking to the future or else I’ll run out of work.  Sounds like enough to overwhelm and overtake any thought of finding free time to just relax.

So how can all of that get finished at the same time?  It can’t.  That’s impossible.  And, although I am a firm believer in multi-tasking, the truth is that you can really only do one thing at a time.  So, that’s what I do:  one thing at a time.  When I worked from 8 to 6 every day, there was always a pile of things to finish and I assigned priority based on deadline, client needs, or the magnitude of the task.  My new strategy is no different except it’s 24 hours a day and the task list is much broader than before.  Getting frustrated and overwhelmed (although it will still happen from time to time) only amounts to wasting valuable time and essentially adding another task to the list that doesn’t need to be there.  At any given point in time, I’m working on whatever I have decided the priority is.  Sometimes it’s getting some drawings finished or making some calls.  Other times it’s playtime or bathtime.  Every day is a continuous mix of everything that has to be attended to.

It works – for now anyway.  I don’t have any employees at the firm, and that helps tremendously.  I don’t need to show up and be present for anyone to make sure they have what they need to work.  This may greatly influence the way the firm grows.  There may be a time where “office hours” exist and schedule and structure come back, but as long as the flexibility remains, I think that the overall strategy can work.  Hopefully I have enough time to figure it all out. . .

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