Being Dad and Interactions at Work, Can They Intermingle?
One late Sunday afternoon in the ’90s, I had asked my father, “How fatherhood changed him through the years?” He was in a reflective mood and shared quite a few thoughts, one of them stood out as it relates to him and his work. He said-“Being a dad widened up my vistas about people, got a bigger perspective on life beyond work. As a result, I started to enjoy my work more than before. Fatherhood has made me more warmer to people and wiser at work.”
That made me think. Now, at a stage in my life, work and working dad intermingle. How has fatherhood impacted my work life? On the flip side, what lessons from work did I utilize as a dad? Can the two arenas help innovate each other?
Here are some snippets.
My child’s crawl and being in another person’s shoes
We had some elderly visitors when my first-born started to crawl. My wife and I were beaming end-to-end watching our child show her antics and her gallant efforts to propel herself. On their way out, the well meaning folks, having seen multiple evolutions of life, were advising us to be on the lookout for things- plug points, sharp objects, corners, doors etc. After they left, we took stock of all things we needed to do for keeping the place safe for our darling daughter.
After thinking about it, I did something interesting, best described as an impromptu inspired moment. I went on my fours to roam around the house. It still amuses me to imagine how it looked on a standalone basis without someone understanding the context! I started to observe things from my child’s vantage point. What would we do for the love of our children!
On a more serious vein, I am real glad I did what I did instinctively. Crawling showed me new perspectives that I had missed — new sharp corners, small details that my parental talks did not capture. This experience opened my eyes on what it really means to be in other person’s shoes. It takes effort and is not naturally instinctive.
At the minimum, I became more aware that other person’s experiences are unique and a healthy respect for what I am unlikely to know about — their experiences that shape their behavior. As a result, I have evolved an approach that includes giving people a healthy benefit of doubt. An approach, time and again, has paid great dividends in my peoples’ relationships at work.
Work life, Nostrils and Knees.
Often we hear about how being a parent improves our work life. What about the flip? What do we like from work life that helps us be a better parent? Here is one such experience that impacted me.
At work, I learnt through time that one of the biggest nemesis for wise people/ subject matter experts is raised chins and exposed inner nostrils. A symbol of self-importance that obviates any goodness in the content they cherish to share. As adults at work, we instinctively dislike looking at people’s inner nostrils. What is true for us, could it be true for kids? My experience as a dad seems to indicate so.
The response from my kids is awesome when I lift them to my eye level. A little muted, when I bend over. The sparkling best when I bend my knees and meet them at their eye level. So, the bent knees are the quality I have inculcated in myself to avoid the nostril effect.
A friend of mine posed this question for book he was writing: “What is the quality do you need as a working daddy with young kids?” My answer is “knees.” Knees are among the most mechanical part in the body- we use it while expensing energy through exercising, proposing to girlfriend and exploring the world at large by walking. How about bending them often to meet our young kids where they are- giving them hugs, high fives and sharing meaningful life experiences?
My instinctive act of crawling, done for the love of my child’s safety, opened my eyes on other person’s perspectives. I found a heart felt appreciation of thinking in other person’s shoes and how limiting our own experience can be.
There is a symbol for most things. The bent knees capture a dad at his best — vulnerable, caring and above all willing to meet his young child where he/she is. A quality that writes eloquent poetry in child’s mind that stays with them — the words may be forgotten, the feelings remain evergreen.
Being a dad and interactions at work intermingle to provide a rich tapestry of experiences. Drawing out the best in both worlds and applying it in the other, is a form of innovation- basic yet meaningful.
What are your thoughts?