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Balancing family and work as a father

Portrait of Zopa CPO and father, Andrew Lawson, with his two daughters.

Spinning plates – being a modern father

I’m a father to two fantastic girls, a husband to an independent, driven and ambitious wife, and a Zopian.  I’m trying to be the best that I can be across those three.  I’ve learnt that balancing family and work is key to that.

I’ve spent years getting that balance slightly wrong, and I’m sure like many people, sometimes it feels like you’re spinning plates, desperately running between them to stop things from coming crashing down.

But then it struck me – these things aren’t in conflict.  It’s not an “either/or” situation.  These are all important parts of me, and they actually re-enforce each other.

Your work-life and family-life are symbiotic

Have you ever had an argument with your partner at home in the morning, and left slamming the door – only to take that foul mood into work, and ended up being short and hot tempered with people that didn’t deserve it?  Guilty.

But, have you ever had a great day at work, really enjoyed yourself and your interactions, made great progress against your goals, only to go home with a bit of an extra spring in your step to be more playful, understanding and energetic with your family?  For sure!

Balancing my experience of being a father and of being a Zopian is really critical.  Often the two help to inform each other.  I love spending time with my girls, reading books, or doing simple things like star gazing.  It’s all too easy to get caught up in daily life worries and forget about how exciting a good story is. Or how amazing a starry nightscape is.  My girls have really helped ground me. They help me keep perspective on the really important things.  And that’s a really valuable attitude to bring to work.

At the same time, working in our cross-functional teams means I spend a lot of time with people that see the world in different ways. That has taught me a huge amount about communication and really seeing things from a different perspective – which is something I try to take back into parenting.

Sharing parenting roles and being present

Being a more present father also means I take my share of the parenting load. That means my wife, like me, has the space and time she needs to chase her career ambitions, alongside being a mother and wife. It’s a very personal choice, but it is important to us that our girls see us both taking on roles at home, and outside of it.

Balancing family and work life is the key and Zopa gives me the flexibility that allows me to do it.  I work from home one day a week. That means I can do the school run and see a bit more of the girls.  When I go to the office, I normally start working around 7am (on my commute in), and some days I leave a bit earlier so I can do the bed routine.

I’m proud to work for a company that genuinely embraces flexible working.  A company that has a culture of treating people with the mutual respect that really makes flexible working work.

Some of that comes from formal policies, like shared parental leave, increasing holidays with service and so on.  But I think it’s more  about who we are, and how we behave: like understanding we all have needs and ambitions outside of work that we need to fulfil.

Work shouldn’t hold you back

Work shouldn’t be something that holds you back in your life mission.  We spend too much time working for that to make sense – and it doesn’t have to be like that.  Make work into something that helps your life goals, whatever they are.  Mine is simply to be the best I can be.

In addition to being a husband and father, Andrew Lawson is Chief Product Officer at Zopa.