Flexibility – it’s one of the buzzwords of 2020 (along with a few others that may not be fit to print). There’s been a lot of talk recently surrounding what we’ve learned about flexibility between work and home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Truthfully, having a full-time career and being a parent isn’t easy, even in the best of times. Balancing being a thoughtful husband, a dedicated father, and a hardworking employee can be tough, and working for a company that recognizes the difficult balancing act truly has given me the option to do all three more easily.
My name is Sean. Professionally, I am a Senior Data Visualization Developer. I aggregate datasets and visually present them, so they are easy to consume. That work helps turns ideas into actions. I’ve been married for 10 years, and I’m a father to 3 intelligent, opinionated, and strong-willed daughters. Two of my daughters were born in October 2020, 3 months earlier than their due date. The unexpected event meant my partner and I would undergo a 3-month stay at multiple NICUs, witness our infant daughters have multiple heart surgeries, and endure a list of other scares. I am happy to say that now I have two perfect and healthy little girls! While we have a few more surgeries in line, I have an optimistic outlook.
Cue up that conversation about flexibility. Parsons’ continuous support throughout each step of the process during and after my daughters’ births allowed me to dedicate time to my growing family when they needed me most.Being able to flex time at work has meant not being locked into consecutive 8-hour workdays. It allows me to step away from work to pick up my daughters from school due to illness or to take them to the multiple specialists that they now see because of their unique births. Without flex time, I don’t see how I would’ve been able to visit the NICU daily (or multiple NICUs as the twins were at two different hospitals for about a month) or visit their mom when she was in antepartum for a month before their deliveries.
I’m fortunate to choose when I work—I can put in a full 8 hours, or I can break it up into chunks. I am lucky to work in an environment with understanding leadership and accommodating coworkers who embrace inclusion and the diverse circumstances each family lives with, as well as within a space where this type of sporadic schedule can work.
I value working at Parsons because the retention of parents depends on continuous support that extends beyond parental leave.
Flexibility has allowed me to appreciate how things that may seem small can make big differences. Since my daughters were born, I’ve shifted some work hours to those hours they are sleeping. That allows me to knock out mundane tasks that are challenging to accomplish while the kids are asleep. (I’m looking at you, vacuum.) I can run my car to the dealership for maintenance during non-peak hours and make up these hours after the children go to sleep, which ultimately means I get to spend more time with them and my partner. As I learn to appreciate these small luxuries, I look for space to create a few more.
I carpool with my partner every day. This gives us an hour or so a day to just be one-on-one, sans kids, and allows us to see our kids off to school as a family. And when there is some “me time,” I listen to audiobooks on some of my favorite topics: child development, self-improvement, and the occasional nerdy book related to data (be it sciences, aggregation, visualization, or general data theory).
My philosophy is that even while working to maintain commitments, it’s important to find time for self-reflection and things you enjoy. Those things tend to be the first that is sacrificed, and as it’s been said, you can’t take care of anyone else without taking care of yourself first.
In a “work comes first” culture, work-life balance often ends up neglected. Maintaining flexibility has allowed me to meet the needs of my family as a working dad and husband, live a less stressful life, and still excel in my career.
Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In my experience, flexibility is the key to that understanding, and I’m grateful to have a place in both a professional environment and a family where flexibility flourishes.