So, I just arrived home from the hospital where our second child was born.
My wife is still resting there with him.
I’m exhausted, but the adrenaline is still pumping and I felt that this was the perfect time to publish this post that I’ve been working on for the past week or so.
It’s time for me to take a break from talking about design. Let’s zoom out for a sec and look at the bigger picture.
A huge part of my life as a designer and entrepreneur is my lovely wife. I met her about 7 years ago at my first workplace as a designer and we’re happily married for over 4 years now. 2 years ago my beautiful daughter Lia joined us, and today a baby boy (yeah I know, I’m not going to sleep in the next 3 years huh?).
As I have a full time job and two side projects I tend to get really busy, but I have found several ways to still be a good husband and father (or so I hope).
Get your priorities straight
I talked to some people who said they have no time for relationships because they are too busy with their careers. But I see no validity in that whatsoever.
A half-religious friend of mine once told me that, by the bible, the worst pain we can ever experience is loneliness. I am not religious whatsoever, but I tend to agree.
To find love is to find happiness, and to be loved and spend time with your loved ones is worth the whole world.
But there is a clash…
How can you invest both in a career and in your relationship?
Finding the balance between family & work is a key challenge in life that we all face.
We have to work hard on that challenge and know where to draw the lines…
I think the main part of balancing children and careers is to know how to make instantly switch your mindset. When you come home from work – 100% of your thoughts and focus needs to go to your kids.
Build trust with your kids from age 0
I also care a lot for being there for her when she’s sick. When your kids are sick they need you the most. I many times take her to the doctor myself, sometimes with my wife.
If I get stressed about not being in the office or not answering email when she is sick I make myself think “The world can burn for all I care! My job, my friends, everyone around me – can burn when I’m on my daughter’s side.”
I know, that is an egoistic thought, but at those times it lets me focus on the importance of being there for her and gaining perspective about work-life situations.
I really believe that we shape our kids, and in order to shape them we need to be there with them as much as we can. In the future, when she’ll attend school and have recreational events that she invites me to attend – I will attend them no matter what!
Set expectations with your partner
So, for instance, in October 2013 I let in my wife on the decision to co-found HackingUI and told her: “I want to run this project, its for our own good, and I will need time to invest in it on a weekly basis off-work.”
Telling her I need time off-work was not enough, I came prepared with a suggestion of how much time I need:
“I need 6 hours every weekend, and I prefer to get them out of the way all at once so later I can spend the rest of my weekend with you and Lia (our daughter).”
That was actually totally acceptable with my wife, since she expects me to spend quality time with her and our daughter most of the weekend without having that itch to get work done.
Its also healthy for me as well, since I can let myself to enjoy the time with my family for the rest of my weekend without that feeling of “oh shit I have so much work to get done”.
I don’t feel that urge to check my mails or run to the computer every second.
Set expectations at your workplace
This has to happen usually before you get accepted and start working. Its extremely important to have this in place early.
First, ask about the early day policy in your company. If you can leave one day early to be with your kids, that’s extremely important. Even if your boss does not allow it at the beginning, if you make it known that it’s something you want you can work towards it.
If you have side projects, be sure to let your future boss know about that as well. I personally believe that side projects advance you as as professional, and develop skills that you will never gain in your every day work. Back when I talked to my boss and told him about HackingUI and PixelPerfect, he totally supported the fact that I’m active in the global design industry.
Quality time should be 100% quality time
Think for a moment – when was the last time you were with your partner alone without distractions?
If you make a decision to run late because you have to finish something at work, be complete with that decision that you took, and let you loved ones know instead of just arriving late.
I am bad at time estimations, but I’m getting better and working hard on being better at it.
But yeah, I was really bad… My wife remembers to this day some times 2 years ago where I’d leave work at 6pm and then ended up leaving at 7pm. That being said, I have made enormous efforts to better my time estimation. I used to do that a lot more, say that I plan to leave at one hour, and end up leaving 30 minutes to an hour after I said I’ll head back. The key is communication, and integrity towards your partner, and I many times failed at that. My wife .
Romance has a place
I once read the amazing article by Leo Babauta on his blog Zen Habits called “How to Make a Marriage Work” and I really recommend to read it.
Romance and intimacy need special attention when it comes to us workaholics in the western world.
I personally think that i have a long way to go on that matter, but i do try to buy flowers for my wife every once in a while, and make sure we have as many date nights just us two.
Tip: if u have kids – when you come home from work, kiss your wife first before saying hi to the kids, just a tip I read somewhere and its so right. For me, that small kiss is like saying “This is our family and we’re leading it together, as a couple, with love”. Can’t explain this too much, just try and see the difference.
Another tip I can give you is to subscribe to Pillow Talk – a great newsletter to remind you and let you know about ways to keep the flame burning high with your partner (I mentioned it in the article
Top 30 newsletters for designers, product managers and frontend developers).
When you get mad
Fighting is OK, when you keep it to a healthy dosage. When I fight with my wife I see her in that exact moment as someone that I really don’t want to talk to, let alone touch. At that moment she is the most unattractive person on earth to me.
But (and it took practice to get there), I then remember that I am the one that indeed choose her as my wife, and that in every other moment I do love her. Fact of the matter is: She is the most attractive human on earth to me. I can’t deny it. So when I think that way every fight gets better, even when I get mad a my 2yo little monster 🙂
So, this about sums what I’ve come up with.
If you have tips of your own – please, please share in the comments below, and you’re also welcome to join the discussion on Designer News.
P.S. I got some more posts in the oven about those points where relationships, productivity, side projects and life meet.