Leaving full time employment as a dad

My path to leaving full time employment as a dad

I left full time employment at the end of November 2012. My eldest son was going to be 3 in December of that year and I had another child on the way. Although in the end those were the overriding reasons for wanting to leave employment, they were not the only ones.  Long before getting married and having children I had always thought that I don’t want to work for a company for the rest of my life. I don’t know why I thought like that but it was always something that was with me.

Even very shortly into starting my career in technology I felt this way. I always knew that at some point I would find a way to do something for myself.  Not sure of what it was that I wanted to do, I didn’t even know if it was going to be in technology. But I just knew that I wanted to have a business. And I wanted to have the level of flexibility that I perceived would come with that.

Wanting to leave full time employment

Prior to finally leaving, there had been at least 5 years of lots thinking about my next steps. I had a lot of different thoughts and ideas on what kind of business I was going to start. This included things like considering a franchise of some sort. Whether it be an optician or buying a nursery or a number of other different things. I don’t know why I didn’t really think of starting a technology business. I had worked in tech for a number of years. But for some reason the idea didn’t even occur to me.

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

It wasn’t until shortly after having my eldest son when I started to think more seriously about things. And I then started to look at more options. In the end it actually became a no-brainer. It just made complete sense to do something in that space. I was getting asked so many different questions around technology. And in particular within the startup industry.

The downfalls of presenteeism

It was at a time when flexible working was becoming more and more commonly used in industry. In addition to that, the idea of being a digital nomad also started to get more traction. In the last few years of being employed as a senior technologist, all of my teams were offshore in places like Russia or India. So the idea of having a flexible working technology role definitely appealed. Especially as a dad, it would allow me to have children and work from home,

Things have changed in the past 7 years. I can see that a number of my ex colleagues and friends do have a bit more flexibility around their senior roles. The technology industry was ripe for making the most of flexible working. But the reality is that there is still a long way to go. Both in the finance industry and in wider business, they still weren’t prepared for it.

I still see this today with many of the people that I talk to. Many companies still insist on having a ‘working from the office’ policy. Even for senior roles, where you would expect output to be the measure of success rather than presenteeism. I remember writing a Linkedin post about the downfalls of presenteeism. And another about countries like Sweden who had moved in some cases to either a 4-day work week or 6-hour working day.

Men don’t even like to discuss leaving full time employment

When I started to discuss these things with other dads it was almost like I was talking a different language. I would get strange looks almost as if to say “yeah whatever”.

The same happened when I started talking about wanting to leave the corporate world. I wanted to have more flexibility around my lifestyle and in particular around a growing family. But most people could not understand. It was like I was talking about something that was complete nonsense. Almost all, if not all of them could not understand why I wanted to do this.

The pressures of gender roles

A lot of what was asked was how would I cope financially from leaving the corporate technology world. I don’t really remember getting any encouragement from anyone. In fact I don’t think I know anybody else at the time that was even considering something even remotely similar. Yet all of my Dad friends were all dealing with the pressures of being the main or only breadwinner. I couldn’t even really get any of them to talk about the pressures of being the sole breadwinner. Yet when I spoke about the flexibility that I was looking to achieve and how I was going to do it, I could see that many of them were at least interested in the idea of having that.

I know it’s talked about more these days but I still don’t think we talk about it often enough.  There is a huge amount of pressure on men being the main breadwinner. Whether that be self-inflicted, generational, cultural or broader society. So much of our identity has been associated with this that we still self sabotage rather than see that there is a different way.

How I transitioned to self-employed and consultancy work

Obviously everyone’s path will be unique to them.  I was fortunate, if you like, in that I had a number of years experience in my job. It would allow me to find a way to work for myself and to work flexibly. But even in other non office based industries, I still see others making choices that are right for them and their families. Once I decided that I wanted to go self-employed and that I wanted to do consultancy work, I did a few things.

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

One of the first things I did was to go to lots of business events, networking events and startup events. This allowed me to meet other like-minded people. They had either already transitioned into or were thinking about transitioning into doing something for themselves. When I look at the number of events that were occuring at the time when I was making my escape, to the type and the number of events that are happening now, the numbers are staggering.

Which brings me onto the next point. I sought out companies like Escape The City and joined their mailing lists. Escape is community of 500,000+ career changers. The platform gives you access to hundreds of exciting jobs and life changing courses. It inspires you to get you doing work that matters to you.

Any information that I could find about getting out of the corporate world and doing something different, I would digest as much of it as I possibly could. What it allowed me to do amongst a number of other things, was to realise that actually even though in my immediate circles I was the only one doing this, in the wider groups there were many more others thinking about doing the same.

Find your tribe to help you with leaving full time employment

Even now several years into consulting work and being the founder in a tech startup, I am still a member of a number of similar communities. One of these is called Doing It For The Kids. I love this group and it’s founder Frankie is amazing. While the group is predominantly women, there are a few dads. And we keep the women honest (or so I like to think) when it comes to comments about husbands and other halves!!! While the above groups worked for me, they might not work for everyone. But there are many groups out there now on sites like www.meetup.com and Facebook.

I’m not going to lie, leaving full time employment as a dad is not easy. There are many reasons to not do it just as there are reasons to do it. You have to find your own path and way that is best suited to you, your family and your circumstances. But it is possible. Finding your tribe of other dads or parents in general is definitely a big help. You’ll soon realise that you’re not alone.

Bless up & one love,

Alec

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