for the dads who stayed home with the kids

An out of office experience

An out of office experience

I was made redundant by the charity I had worked for in various capacities at the end of February.  I had been with them for two and a half years, and for the most part, I really loved my time there.  I worked as a consultant, before accepting positions in-house as Head of Operations, Marketing and Communications, and eventually Managing Director.

I gained a real sense of motivation from helping others that I haven’t experienced elsewhere in my life.  Since leaving work, I have struggled desperately to find a lever to get me going.  Having two young children helps, but I recognise that my role as a parent will change as time goes on, and my children become more independent, so it’s important that I secure my future now.

Still, I find it difficult to do things for my own benefit and I can’t resist the idea that this is because I consider others more deserving.  Before I left my role a few members of my team asked me to provide them with references.  I was saddened that the charity would be losing their services too, but I was determined to help them secure work.  When thinking about their qualities, they were numerous and obvious to me.  When thinking about my own achievements and strengths, the list appears abstract and fake.

As I focus on finding my next role my mind is flooded with insecurities.  I look through the appointments sites and feel horribly inadequate.  I struggle to list my successes and feel the pull of those experiences I view as personal failures.  On a rational level, I understand that the reality is more nuanced.  Successes or failures rarely belong to one person, and I would never claim a prize not fairly won, yet I find it easy to assume responsibility for things when they go wrong.  This can be a strength in a Managing Director, but over time, it can become debilitating, so it’s important to allow yourself a few victories along the way.  I intend to be more generous with myself in the future.

Over the past three months I have applied for scores of jobs and my search goes on.  Each morning I remind myself that I’m not alone, that there are thousands of other mummy’s and daddy’s out there facing the same challenge.  But the physical reality tests this belief.  My wife leaves with the children in the morning while I stay home to continue my search.  At the weekends, I catch up with friends and family and I am reminded that my life is different in a very significant way.  I don’t want to overegg the importance of work, but for me it’s a key part of our identity.  What we do goes to who we are, and if we are not doing something, then it’s unlikely that we will truly experience a sense of self-worth and validation.  As I write this, I know that my own self-esteem is suffering, and I need to find a way back quickly.

So what next?  It’s difficult to say.  Most of my recent knowledge is in the charitable sector specific to health-related issues.  The sector has experienced a sustained period of controversy, scrutiny and hardship.  My hope is that lessons have been learned, and that valued and needed institutions will repair their reputations and continue their work.  I would love to return to the sector at some point, but until charities regain public trust, opportunities will be scarce, and committed and compassionate professionals will have to look elsewhere.

Location is a factor.  I’m based in Poole and have been since 2003.  It’s a beautiful town, and I feel privileged to live there, but it remains a ‘fishing village,’ and is unlikely to attract big businesses in the way that large cities do.  This concerns me as a jobseeker and as a father, because while I would love for my children to travel and experience the world, they need to have opportunities at home should they wish to stay.

All of this leads me to believe that the solution may rest in my ability to create something from scratch.  Those who do, tend to be masters of their own destiny, and well placed to provide a legacy for their children.  I have begun working on a few ideas between applications, and I would encourage anyone reading this to keep going and be creative.  Ultimately, your children will be the beneficiaries of your success wherever it lies.

Written by Paul Norton

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