I have just returned to work after the journey of a three month parental leave and helping my family get adjusted to a being a family of 5. I’m really thankful that my employer, Power to Change, my bosses and the government of Canada have policies in place to serve families and help them thrive.
Here’s what I learned on my leave.
- Margin. Being on leave gave me space that I don’t often have in my calendar driven life to focus on family and activities like exercise that often get pushed out in my life. There was space to be unhurried, to engage fully with my kids, to serve my wife with a full tank of energy and to get some important but not urgent things knocked off of our todo lists. As my time wrapped up, my wife and I vowed to try and figure out how to continue to have a good dose of margin in our life as we dive back into a full schedule. We’ve realized how sustaining and energizing having margin is.
- Family life is hard and important. My respect for my wife and how she lovingly and patiently cares for our kids and family went way up. I was reminded how those that are single parents have one of the toughest jobs in the world. I also learned many personal lessons about leading with influence within my family when my tendency is just to be forceful and try to eliminate quarreling and dysfunction without a long-term perspective.
- We make time for the things that are important to us. Even when I have the space (time) to do things that I say, “I don’t have enough time” to do in my ‘regular’ life I struggle to do when I actually do have the time. This reveals that time is not the issue, but rather one of disciple, priority and focus.
- Being away from work helped me realize that I am dispensable. I work with a very talented team that carried on just fine.
- There’s a whole other world out there. I got to go grocery shopping, drop kids off at school, observe the rhythms of people in my neighborhood. I can easily get isolated in my little world, but it’s useful to rub shoulders and get perspective from others I normally wouldn’t. This sharpens my thinking and relationships.
- I’m invigorated to go back to work. Being away for a season has re-kindled a passion for the work I do and energized me to come back to lead and love well.
- Life is better with exercise. During my leave I tried to get 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity every day. All around I’m way better when this happens each day. I’m better engaged in my relationships. I sleep better. I’m more energized. I make better food choices. This is pattern I hope will continue back full-time at work.
Admittedly, this post is more for me to help process my experience than for the inter-webs, but perhaps you can glean something from it.