Even before becoming a dad, I always thought my role as a father was to be the family’s provider. I grew up in an environment where undoubtedly that was the case, and it was reinforced by the corporate environment where I started my career because the culture there highly valued money over time. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I grew fascinated with focusing on my career and making as much money as I could, even at the expense of my personal time.
Then — boom.
My wife and I had to deal with a series of health issues. First, it was mine: a serious case of shingles that evolved into neuralgia caused by the stress of working in a toxic environment. Some time after that, my wife had a serious flare-up of lupus, an autoimmune disease triggered by stress.
While my wife was ill, I still went to the office while she went to doctor’s appointments and dealt with the pain by herself. It was a rough period for us. As a man, I had so much pride that I wouldn’t talk to anyone about it. Not family, friends, not co-workers. The investment properties we managed got neglected and we lost money every month. I became frustrated and anxious. Yet I didn’t want to give up my job for fear of not being able to provide.
After seeing less than minimal improvements in my wife’s health for about two months, I realized I wasn’t providing for my family in the way that really mattered. Was the priority of the household of the moment to focus on money? We had bills, of course, but there’s so much more to life than living to work. I should’ve been giving time — my time — instead.
Not giving time an unrecoverable loss
Many of us men have this perplexing thought in which we assume that just by being at work we are doing a service to our family. In reality, we can make a living in so many other ways that also allow you to be home so you can enjoy and help the people you love most.
So we made big decisions. We moved from Miami to Orlando to leave the stressful lifestyle we associated with the city and take advantage of the equity we had gained on a home we had purchased near there. I gathered the courage to quit my job only for my employer to be offer me an opportunity to hold on to it while working remotely.
I quickly began to realize how much time is wasted at an office.
My newly discovered free time helped relieve stresses for both of us. I worked when I was most productive, and I embraced things that I didn’t have time for before. I became more active in the household, and my wife and I focused on health by eating better, working out and trying to lead a less stressful lifestyle. After just a few months of focusing on ourselves and not our jobs, her lupus went into remission.
The lessons I learned from that period of my life still influence my decisions years later. Before having my daughter, I took a different job with a company where everyone worked remotely and offered better paternity leave. I started seeing my job as just a paycheck but, surprisingly, I was also doing well in it. Since my daughter’s birth, I’ve had titles such as senior marketing manager, VP of marketing and now “Head of Growth.” But when people ask what I do, first and foremost, I talk about being a dad. Then I’ll talk about our real estate investments and then, if I feel like it, I’ll talk about my job. I no longer tie my identity to my career, and it’s allowed me to break free from making decisions that only benefit a toxic patriarchal fantasy as opposed to doing what’s truly best for myself and my family.
Sometimes I fall into these periods where I find myself leaning toward working more hours than I should for my job only to be reminded that the best job I’ve ever had is being a father. At those moments, I close the computer, play with my kid and worry about getting stuff done later. The more I do this, the more productive I become in the time I do dedicate for work. And as loyal as I am to the companies that allow me to deliver results in this structure, I’ll happily walk away from a role, title or salary the second they take away from my job as a father. We can always downgrade our lifestyle and figure out ways to cut costs if need be, but I’ll never get back the time I didn’t give my family.
And now, as my wife and I embrace the lifestyle of work-from-home parents, we have our own chaos to manage in figuring out how to keep a house going and get jobs done with a high-energy, 2-year-old toddler. But while I do, I’ve got a happy little girl to smile at and a sexy, smart work-wife who also doubles as my real wife who also keeps me going with great conversations all day. Hours and minutes are currency I trade in now because I’ve found giving time is the best way to provide for my family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marlon Gutierrez, a native of Miami, is a work-at-home digital marketing manager and married father of one. He is an organizer of our Orlando Dads Group.
Giving time photo by Foter.com. Gutierrez family photo: contributed.