When I was 5 years old, I hated Tuesday nights. It wasn't because Tuesday was broccoli night (and if you ask anyone in my family, they will tell you how I was *not* a veggie eater as a kid). It wasn't because I wanted to stay up past my bedtime to watch a show on TV. It was because after dinner my dad went to play tennis with his friends. Come to think of it, I probably hated tennis as well.
I remember watching the car back out of the driveway and wishing that my Dad would stay home. This way we could play like the other six nights of the week. 5-year old me never quite understood how playing tennis was more fun than playing whatever game I had just made up on the spot as my Dad was packing his gym bag.
Fast-forward to (gulp) 40-year old me ... I get it.
Now that I'm a Dad myself, I've realized that it wasn't about tennis. It was about my dad finding some time for himself.
Much has been written about work-life balance. I think its all bullshit. You simply can't find a balance point between parts of your life that usually will add up to over 100%. What I do think is possible is to find your rhythm. There are days where your wife needs you and everything else needs to revolve around that. There are days where your kid needs 100% of your attention because of something that happened at school. There are days where you need to tackle a challenge from work. As we get older, we acquire different hats to wear. Boyfriend. Husband. Dad. Friend. The rhythm between the various hats you wear will change over time. The key in my mind is to figure out how to roll with the rhythm.
As a Dad, at some point, you need to make time for yourself. That is what my Dad playing tennis was about. It was his 'me' time. The friends that he played with all had the same need for some 'me' time and all happened to enjoy playing tennis. So they shared their 'me' time (and probably a few beers afterwards).
After my daughter was born I made her and my wife the priority. Everything else took a back seat. It was four months later during a leadership development program at work that I realized how stressed I was. New-Dad me was missing something pre-Dad me took for granted. It was simple ... when pre-Dad me was stressed, he went for a run. So I laced up the running shoes and hit the pavement. Six months later new-Dad me ran two marathons in less than a month.
Running is my 'me' time and it helps me maintain a rhythm. It means getting up early on weekends and being out the door while the kids are asleep. Sometimes when my one of my kids gets up earlier than expected, it means pushing a jog-stroller. Sometimes it means hitting a treadmill. One of my friends is both a Dad and a runner. We share our 'me' time as we log miles up and down the lakefront training for whatever race one of us has on the calendar.
There is a part of me that feels a little guilty when I walk out the door for a run early on a Saturday morning. I'm sure my Dad felt a twinge of guilt as well as he pulled out of the driveway on Tuesday nights. However, I love that I’m teaching my kids the benefits of exercise. I also know that I'm a better husband, dad, friend, and person because of I get some 'me' time and that helps me maintain a rhythm between the different roles in my life.
So what do you do to maintain your rhythm?
Brett is a married father of two and makes his home in Chicago. He has completed six marathons and two 50km ultramarathons. Running continues to be his way of maintaining a rhythm.