Many parents struggle with balancing their priorities and commitments to family, work and beyond, and our founder, John, is no different. This Father’s Day, he shares some of the questions he holds as a entrepreneur who’s also a father of five, and his wishes for other fathers
I’m writing this post in an Airbnb in Tokyo. The 3 older kids (ages 8, 7 and 5) are playing Uno and entertaining themselves, which gave me the opportunity to sneak away with my laptop. The thing about being a business owner is that you never switch off. Maybe some entrepreneurs can. I’m just not one of them. It’s not just when I’m on vacation. At home as well.
There’s always one more email to write, one more article to read, one more task to finish. Often times when I’m at home I can hear the kids playing, or even see them from the corner of my eye. But I’m not really present. At least not to my kids. They see me, but I’m on my laptop (I try not to be on my phone because it’s harder to be productive).
I read somewhere that work life balance is a fallacy. There’s no such thing. The goal is work life integration. I’m not entirely sure what integration really means, but I suspect it’s something to do with the inherent tension in ‘work life balance’ where one is competing with the other.
Whatever you want to call it, the fact is many fathers (and mothers, probably) are not fully present when we are with the kids. Work is one reason, but there are others – social media, mobile games etc. A good friend of mine who is a very successful tech entrepreneur has 2 teenage children and a three year old. He told me how spending time with his 3 year old now made him realise how much of his older kids’ childhood he missed because he was so busy working. He’s lucky he has a second shot at being fully involved in his youngest’s childhood because he is retired now, but not everyone has a second chance.
Work and career are important, but so is family. No one can turn back time. Your child will only be three once. Miss that, and you’ll never be able to fully experience what your three year old was like at that age.
My wish this Father’s Day is for all fathers reading this to find that work life integration to be fully present in their child’s development and growth. Needless to say, giving children the time and space to have fun and be curious is crucial, but that’s no excuse for not being more involved in your child’s development. Some parents attempt to assuage the guilt of not being able to spend more time with their child by sending them for more classes. This is counter-productive, particularly if those classes measure every child on the same continuum of linguistic and mathematical intelligence rather than recognising multiple intelligence.
Harvard professor Howard Gardner. Professor Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence is based on a simple premise – not all people have the same interests and abilities, and not all of us learn the same way. He identifies seven intelligences – linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal – and makes the case for the plurality of intellect, with the various types of intelligences working together to solve problems, to fashion products that are culturally relevant.
Too many kids are labelled ‘not intelligent’ too early, whereas they may just be really good at visualising space (surgeons, sculptors, painters), or they may be really good at solving problems or fashioning products using their whole body or parts of their body (dancers, athletes, craftspeople).
Exceptionally gifted individuals will make notable advances in the cultural manifestations of that intelligence, and the world will be a lesser place if Mozart or Picasso had been labelled unintelligent at a young age and forced to go down a different path. This may sound extreme, but I believe this is what many education systems around the world is doing by measuring kids purely on linguistic-logical ability. Singapore’s Ministry of Education has a more progressive view, but parents’ obsession with grades ultimately leads them down the path of sending their kids for more and more test prep classes to prepare them for tests that only measure linguistic-logical ability. You see where I am going with this.
But more about this later – I’ll write a longer post on multiple intelligence after I’ve finished reading the 4 books on the subject on my bookshelf.
In the meantime, happy father’s day. Spend the day with your child. Be in the moment.
John with 4 of his 5 kids