If you are a working dad, one of the last things that you want to hear are the words,
“We are going to have to lay you off.”
In the 10 years of being a parent and my 12 years of being a video producer, I have heard those words not once, but twice. Each time, the first thing through my head was wondering what I will do next. I was wondering how long this lay off would last until I could find another job and how long that gap in employment would look to a potential employer.
I knew that I was going to have to find some way to support the family. We were (and still are) a family who relies on both parents working to be able to live the life we have come accustomed to. Lying awake that first night after being laid off both times, I remember the positive thoughts that were going through my head. I didn’t think that either time would last very long and that I would end up in a better position then I was in prior.
I had one thought right, I would end up in a better position than before. The other, however, meant that I would be a stay-at-home-dad longer then I had anticipated. Without getting into the nuances of what being a laid-off stay-at-home-dad meant to me and my family, the time it took to land my next job only meant that it would be harder for me and my family to adjust to the new lifestyle of me working full-time again.
I Had To Begin Transitioning Back To Work
Once I got the call that an employer was taking a chance on me, my transitioning back to work clock had started. Over the course of the 3 to 4 months that I was unemployed, my family had become familiar with a new routine. I was always around to be able to just pick up my oldest when something went wrong at summer camp. The kids were able to sleep in just a tad bit longer because we didn’t have to rush to get out the door in the mornings. I was so hyper-focused on finding a job that it had become my full-time job but I found it difficult to not talk about it when I had little adult interaction being a stay-at-home-dad.
Things were about to quickly change and I needed to make sure that transitioning back to work would be easy for me and my family.
1. Have a Day Out
While being a laid-off stay-at-home-parent might seem like you are having a day out with your kids every day, the reality of it was that I was spending most of my day searching the job boards. Being focused on finding a job became my full-time job and it was difficult for me to focus on being the stay-at-home-dad that I wanted to be during these few months.
With my soul focus on finding a job and not spending the time with both of my kids during the two times that I was laid-off, I made sure that during the next week or two after landing a job that I spend that quality time with them. Those last two weeks were dedicated to spending time with them and doing the things that they wanted to do. I remember asking each of them what are the things they wanted to do. There was no need for me to focus on finding a job anymore and my attention could be to spending quality time with them and making memories that they would remember forever.
2. Get That Routine Started Early
One of the hardest things for me to adjust to when I was transitioning back to work would be a new morning routine. Our entire morning routine was going to have to start earlier than we were all used to. The coffee was still going to must be made and breakfast on the table for the hungry mouths that were about to wake up, all of this earlier then we were used to.
The 1 to 2 weeks that it would take for me to start my job would be just enough time for us to settle into a new routine. It was an adjustment not only for me by my wife and kids as we starting this new part in our lives. Starting it as early as we could before starting a new job made the entire transition easier for all of us.
3. Keep Work at Work
This was the hardest part of transitioning back to work for me. I was transitioning from my job being a stay-at-home-parent and talking about the things that we did during the day to working a job that was at times hard to explain. The new job meant added stress onto my life that made it difficult when I would come home from a stressful day and take longer than usual to decompress from the day. I learned quickly that I needed to be able to keep that stress at work and not bring it home with me.
One of the ways that I accomplished this was by disconnecting my work email from my phone. It can be easy in a new job to feel the need to be “available” 24/7 but the moment I turned off my work email on my phone it was as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Whatever important emails came in after 5 pm could wait until 8 am the next day.
Now, having said this, I always made a point to check my work email at least once after my kids went to sleep so that I wasn’t surprised by anything in the morning.
4. Find Time To Yourself
This is key for any parent but when you are working full-time finding the time to take for yourself is difficult. Maybe you have a 45 commute to and from work every day and you are able to listen to some of your favorite podcasts (shout out to the Dad 2.0 Podcast that I can rely on being posted every Monday). Maybe you are a morning person who can wake up an hour or so before the family or a night owl who stays up to watch the TV shows that aren’t appropriate to watch while the kids are around.
One of the ways that I was able to find time for myself was staying connected to the Kansas City Dads Group and continuing to go to their Dad’s Night Out. Having a support network like this provided me a way to step away from being a parent and just be a guy.
Additional Tip – Save Your Vacations/Sick Days
When I was transitioning back to work, one of the hardest aspects of it was who was going to take time off to take care of sick kids, or how was I going to take days off for vacations that we planned before taking a new position. I am an advocate for using your days, however when you are a parent these days are a precious commodity. I try to only use a day if I have to
The additional benefit of saving your vacation days is that it becomes a sort of savings account for if you ever find yourself laid off again. Most companies will pay you for your unused vacation days and if you have enough built up, this can mean an additional paycheck or two. This only works of course if you have a job that rolls over your vacation days and doesn’t force you to take them by the end of the year.