Anyone reading my blogs during this calendar year may have been able to pick up a distinct theme emerging: a growing desire for even more flexibility in my working life. Well, guess what? I quit!
I'd been thinking about leaving my work for a long time. Although a good company to work for, the clash in our understandings about the appropriate levels of flexibility was never going to be reconciled. Rather than trying to change the culture from within, I realised that the more productive activity was to find a set-up that suited my own ideas of the perfect balance.
The opportunity presented itself when our live-in nanny of two years decided to return home. Although a real loss for us (she was, after all, Supernanny), we soon realised that this could be turned into an opportunity to do something differently. So after crunching some numbers (and helped by the fact that both kids would now be in full-time state schools), I headed to my manager’s office and I resigned.
Phew, what a relief. I instantly felt like a happier, much more positive person. This was important to me as the negativity had seeped in and those around me had all had their share of it, including my kids. I didn’t want to be that person, so it was time to go. Two things were clear to me – that I wanted to play a much bigger role bringing up our kids and I never wanted to commute to the City again on a daily basis!
It's a difficult thing leaving a job you've been in for 11.5 years (my personal best!) Not to mention giving up a fairly decent wage. My colleagues were more like family. Just like families you can't always get on with everyone all the time but they're a great bunch of people. I was happy I was leaving a good strong team behind.
So I've taken the leap. I've left my City job behind and am now the primary carer for the kids. I'm, once again, at the school gates 99% of the time (which, crazily enough, involves two hours of walking per day!) and when I'm not doing that I'm running my own maritime consultancy business. And may I add, mostly working between the hours of 10AM and 2PM, but with the odd day of travel here and there.
So the top 10 things I've learnt since escaping the City are:
1) You're probably valued at work and will be missed even if you don't think so. It was heart-warming to hear that I would be missed and that my contribution had been valued – something that I had not considered in my negative state of mind amongst constant changes.
2) Opportunities can appear that you never knew were possible. The consultancy opportunity only presented itself once I had resigned and perfectly fits in with the type of lifestyle I wanted to construct for myself. But had I not resigned, I would never had found out about it.
3) The benefits of having a parent around and not always the nanny shouldn't be underestimated. Some of the best bits of parenting happen during those ordinary moments within the daily routine, like on the school run or before bath time. You can’t schedule them in, but they happen spontaneously if you are there to experience them.
4) Staying within the same four walls and having no adults for company can result in cabin fever. Week 6 of my newly found freedom the kids were booked into summer camp, and once schools had started, I was very ready to start working again. Now I know why Supernanny was so happy to see us when we got in from work – it can be lonely being in the house all day by yourself or with just kids as company.
5) Connecting with other dads and families is nice and not something that's been easily possible in previous years. Now is our chance to become more integrated into our local community and our kids will benefit from it as well.
6) Long-term live-in nannies and au pairs can easily become part of the family and them leaving can be a huge loss that everybody needs to process. Luckily our nanny gave us plenty of notice and we were able to plan the transition. The kids have been able to keep in touch with her via Skype and will see her at Christmas.
7) You can survive on a lot less money than you think if you make some cost reductions. We thought we had done a lot of cost-cutting when my wife started to work part-time, but when we looked at our outgoings more critically, we found many potential areas of cost-savings.
8) There are alternative ways to make a living other than via the corporate commute. This seemed to be the biggest hurdle for me to make the change: Would I ever be able to work again and sustain a decent lifestyle? Once you start looking into alternative ways of working, you realise that many people are already doing it and that it seems to be a bit of a growing trend. Why did I wait so long!
9) Some tasks are still best left to the professionals, like cleaning! And trying to do everything yourself is not realistic, necessary, or even a good idea. A few weeks after schools resumed, the cleaning still wasn’t getting done, so we ended up hiring a cleaner to help out to protect my sanity and to free up some more time for working – as the school days fly past!
10) Trying to manage everything at home is a lot less stressful when you're actually at home! Since being at home, we have had our floors done, have had a bathroom leak, a couple of flat batteries in our cars, and the list goes on. Now I actually have some time to deal with the additional admin that having a family creates rather than just stressing about it.
Three months in, and things are feeling good. Am I the Man Who Has It All? Not yet, but I'm the Man Who Has A Little Bit More Than I Did.