Over the last year, I've talked to a lot of people across generations about work-life balance and career and life motivations. I've undergone my own transformation of sorts while also trying to dispel the common perception that work-life balance is a myth and that work-life blend is the only answer.
I've learned a lot along the way about how important our daily habits are based on my own experiences as a small business owner, husband and dad. I have also learned quite a bit from other dads out there who I have talked to about their own challenges and desires around work-life balance.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Activision Blizzard's Consumer Products CEO, Tim Kilpin - who spent a significant amount of time in his career prior to joining Activision Blizzard in big leadership roles at Mattel. He is in a unique position in his life - his kids are fully grown and out of the house, and he had even semi-retired before taking his CEO role for Activision Blizzard.
Because he's "been through the tunnel" to a large degree, he has some great perspectives on work-life balance for many of us dads who are, admittedly, either just entering that tunnel or still in there trying to figure it all out.
How do you do a great job at work, get those big promotions and still be a big part of your family? Is it even possible? It's certainly hard. And quite honestly, it's not something many of us dads talk about with a great amount of transparency and openness. Even Tim himself started the conversation with me by humbly confessing that he felt like he "failed spectacularly" at work-life balance earlier in his career.
When I spoke with Tim, I asked him to give us a "look back" view of what he might have done the same and differently as he thinks about work-life balance. What he had to say was insightful, humble, and really useful:
1. Kids need you more as they get older
Any of us who have young kids or have already raised young kids know how much time they require. But Tim talks about a common misperception some dads have when kids get a little older and go to school.
The misperception is that they need your time less, which might lead many of us dads to feel like this is the time to dive deeper into our careers. This isn't to say that we shouldn't dive into our careers. Our careers matter and are important. Tim's great retrospective point is that the career can't get in the way of providing guidance and being available to your kids as they get older and involved in activities that don't involve you directly.
It is easy to be deceived that your life can and should tilt more towards work now that the kids are more independent.
2. Your kids need a different voice so they don't become "mom deaf"
Many families these days have two working parents, but there are also a good number of families who still have moms and dads in more traditional roles. Neither scenario is better or worse than the other. Every family makes its own decisions based on its specific situation and needs.
Tim describes his situation as one where, because of the roles he held, he was fortunate enough to have a job that allowed his wife to stay home with the kids. His perspectives resonated with me on this topic, in particular, as a dad who also is the sole financial provider for a family.
The point he talks about, though, is how important it is for dads in these situations to be present and active as that "different voice" if you aren't the primary operator of the house. Your kids need it. And your wife needs it.
3. Compartmentalization won't kill your career
Tim describes a younger version of himself getting back into e-mail after he had given the kids baths and helped put them to bed. In retrospect, he says that 90% of what he was diving back into late at night that he felt was critical and urgent wasn't critical and urgent. There wasn't anything, for the most part, that couldn't wait until the morning. While Tim was "in the tunnel" himself, he felt as though he wasn't as aware of this reality as he is now looking back on it.
It comes down to prioritization, and most things can wait until the morning in the interest of our families. It is an important lesson for many of us who feel the pressure of timelines at work and urgency being imposed on us (or us imposing it on ourselves).
4. The quest for work-life balance and time with your kids never ends
Simply put, there is no end zone or touch down dance. Tim's kids are fully grown and living in different parts of the country. And Tim commutes across the country at times for work these days. He says he is still trying to figure out how to get better at it.
It's an important lesson for all of us. As long as we care about our families and our careers - which most of us do - it is always going to be something we have to give real attention to.