Guest post by Iain Twine, CEO of Edelman Southeast Asia and Australasia.
I am an Australian male born in the 70s. A proud dad of two boys, Rupert and Harvey. And happily married to a fabulous lady called Carly.
I am lucky. Since we moved to Singapore three years ago, we had our second child (Harvey) and my wife has been able to grow these two little monsters into legends, albeit with a tendency to be absolute pains in the butt.
Prior to moving to Abu Dhabi, we lived in London. Carly had a fabulous job at a bank in London, and one day David Brain offered me a job in Abu Dhabi. I was a failing associate director in our London office in my first-ever private sector job. Mr. Brain gave me a lifeline. I had grown up in Oman and Syria, and at the time this qualified me as our “Middle East” individual.
He also sent me a letter that I could legally in essence (my words) either keep my girlfriend at the time (Carly), marry her or live in separate accommodation. It was, and still is, illegal for unmarried people to live together in the United Arab Emirates.
Surprisingly, Carly said she was willing to roll the dice. I moved and she quit her job and followed a few months later. After we bought our IKEA furniture and TV, I summed up the courage to ask her to marry me. She said yes, begrudgingly.
Not long after our honeymoon, Carly got pregnant. We were lucky. At the same time, she had also just got a job. She was the financial controller of Emirates Nuclear Energy Company. The maternity policy was 90 days.
90 days to pop a child out, make sure he (Rupert) is awesome, take ownership of her body back in some way, and still deal with a pretty useless husband. All in all a good outcome but, to be honest, a bad process deal. I hope that when it comes to parental leave across the world, we understand more is more.
I look back in amazement and awe in what she was able to do. So many moments when I was not a good husband and PR executive, she just sorted out our world. For me it was the dawning of a proper understanding of the power, persistence, and regularly bad deal that women/mums get. I was in awe but I am also ashamed.
In my current job, I spend 95-plus days a year on the road. She spends 365 days a year at home. I won’t lie, occasionally I click my heels like Dorothy as I head to the airport and leave behind a meltdown over LEGO and nap time. Lucky me, unlucky Carly.
I learned part of the reality this week. Carly has been away for the first time on her own in five years. Five bloody years. Yep, I can’t believe it either. How uncool is that? Not good enough Twine.
I had to contend with six nights with the boys, and with full transparency, we also have a nanny in a country with no immediate family, and a region where they are a crucial part of how many parents are able to survive. No rosé, no helicopters, nothing. We did have awesome meal plans, play dates organized, and a “what to do if they X” medical guide that Edelman’s healthcare clients would love.
It wasn’t much of a hardship. But I learned a few truths.
Some really happy things. But also some things that made me more aware of what parents across our company go through:
- I have an awesome job. Something that only a company like Edelman can give. I am very lucky and very grateful. Next week, I get to take my family to the US for a month for my 10 year sabbatical.
- But the reality this week was I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t balance both in the way they deserved it. And the truth is, I failed on the work front. I did, however, win on the dad front. It’s fair to say, we have eaten a bucket load of junk this week, and been to the purple slide park and successfully avoided hand, foot and mouth disease. Who knew that kids could get the same disease as cattle!
- I worked from home for most of the week, with some meetings out of the house, and a bucket load of conference calls. I sat on these calls and watched the boys creating a new game that involved taking all of the pillows off the couch and building a bowling alley. A modern day “it’s a knockout” in the minds of young ones. Sitting there getting a grilling on ratios, and simultaneously having visual enjoyment, reminded me why we are doubling down on our creative efforts and investments across the company. The realization that creativity is in front of us and not hiding was massively helpful. I also did end up sending some ideas to a pitch team around “couch bowling.” They haven’t responded.
- Maybe because I have a senior role, no one has criticized me for doing what I have done this week. I have had chuckles and reactions of “your poor kids” from colleagues, and I also got a hug from a client. Why should we ever be worried about being who we are first, and being an employee second? It helped me to orientate myself. But, it also reminded me that if anyone on my teams ever throws shade at a parent, I will come down on it like a ton of bricks. It’s hard.
- Finally, as a hint, which side of the bed you have is crucial to your sleep. If you are expecting or a young parent, I recommend a winners take all game of scissors, papers, rock. Children who wander at night tend to find those sleeping closest to the door.
This post is an incredibly indulgent post. I did my job(s) for six nights. I am lucky.
I hope that every day at Edelman we try and remember who we are first.
Image by woodleywonderworks.